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The Journey of a Lifetime: Voyager 1 and Voyager 2

Funded by The National Aeronautics and Space Administration built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 seeks a journey of a lifetime.

Under the Voyager Programme, launched by NASA, in the two different summers of 1977 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, were the two 722 kg, with 11 scientific instruments each, twin spacecraft Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, formerly called Mariner 11 and Mariner 12, respectively, under the Mariner Programme. Both boarded the Titan-Centaur rocket. The purpose of the launch was to have a close-up analysis of Jupiter and Saturn, along with Saturn's rings and the two planets' larger moons as gas giant planets, where Uranus and Neptune were ice giants gathering information to relay back to Earth. Therefore, this became an advantage as all the planets were aligned after 175 years. They were designed to take a tour of the solar system. Voyager 1 followed in succession after Voyager 2 in the line of launch. The initial programme cost $865 million, with an additional $30 million for the later-added Voyager Interstellar Mission.

This article focuses on the history of both Voyagers, the mission’s aim, the critical analysis contributed by both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 and the future of space research.

Voyager 1

 Voyager 1 was the first spacecraft to pass the heliosphere, which is the limit where forces from beyond our solar system outnumber those from the sun. The trajectory was chosen to deliver the best possible flyby of Saturn's moon Titan, which was believed to be relatively massive and to have a dense atmosphere. The first artificial item to travel into interstellar space A small ring surrounding Jupiter was discovered, as well as two new Jovian moons, Thebe and Metis. In 2010, Voyager 1 reported that the solar wind's outward velocity had reduced to zero, and in June 2012, Voyager 1 had been very close to crossing interstellar space, NASA scientists announced on June 12. And both carry the Golden Record, intended to be a time capsule and interstellar message to any civilization, alien or distant human, who might be able to retrieve one of the Voyagers.

Pale Blue Dot

Voyager 1 is famous for its 1990 photo, The Pale Blue Dot, which was taken 3.7 billion kilometers away. This image inspired scientist Carl Sagan's book's title, "Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space," in which he stated: "Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us." And in a 2022 Twitter post, NASA Voyager evokes emotions from the latter image taken 32 years ago, calling it, "Minutes before, I imaged this pale blue dot; my former home."

Voyager 2

Voyager 2's trajectory was intended towards Uranus, and it became the first artificial object to fly over Planet Aquamarine in 1986. Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to analyze the four giant planets and has discovered the 14th moon on Jupiter. On Uranus, Voyager 2 discovered ten new moons and two new rings. In Neptune, it discovered five moons, four rings, and a "Great Dark Spot." Moreover, there are ten new moons and two new rings in addition to the nine previously known, and among other important discoveries, the winds on the planet blow at 1,100 km/h, according to The Indian Express.

Earth stated that on July 21, 2023, because of a wrong command sent by the controllers, the antenna tilted a few degrees away from Earth by 2%, and hence, communication ties with Voyager 2 were severed. Voyager 2, which is nearly 12 billion kilometers away, has been relentlessly sending crucial data since 1977—almost 46 years!

This makes it the second lost connection between NASA and Voyager 2. In 2020, connections were lost for eight months. Furthermore, The Conversation stated, "Canberra’s Deep Space Station 43 is the only antenna in the world that can communicate directly with both Voyagers. Its sister stations in the northern hemisphere are unable to "see" Voyager 2 because Earth is in the way." All contact with Voyager 2 is routed through NASA's Deep Space Station 43, a 70-meter radio dish operated by the CSIRO at the Canberra Deep Space Contact Complex.

According to the India Times and Times of India, a 'heartbeat' signal was received from Voyager 2 on July 31, 2023. A carrier signal since the antenna is not aligned correctly to pick strong passwords or indicator, and assumptions state that it would have taken 18 hours to reach Earth due to the distance. The BBC states, "But this will not happen until 15 October. Nasa is confident that if all else fails, this "should enable communication to resume."

With space research in progress and complex and invaluable data, what is the future of Voyager 2?


Edited by Whitney Edna Ibe

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Tags: #nasa #interstellar #voyager1 #jetpropulsionlaboratory #palebluedot #voyager2


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