Saturday, July 2, 2022

Science Saturday: A Long Goodbye to the Voyager Probes

This Voyager poster is
available on the NASA site


Voyager I and II

It's pretty amazing that these two craft, designed for a life of four years, are still out there and still sending back signals some 45 years later. They have now breached the bounds of our own solar system and are travelling through interstellar space--the only craft to have reached anywhere near this distance from Earth.

Sadly, NASA will gradually begin a power-down of the probes which will be complete by approximately 2030. Saying goodbye to Voyager I and II won't undermine all the amazing discoveries made possible by these two probes, just a few of which are pictured in this online Business Insider article

But long after they stop transmitting, they'll still be out there for millions of years, travelling through the great beyond.

In my (as-yet-unpublished) novel, The Outer Planets, a time lapse of Jupiter was my inspiration to pen the scene where the main character, Lissa Bruce, a member of the crew of a planetary exploration vessel, views the violent surface of Jupiter for the first time in proximity to the planet. From her perspective the roiling, twisting clouds suggest hot tomato soup with cool milk being added. 

Check out the time lapse photo of Jupiter and imagine it in color--oranges, reds, creams and whites all swirling in complex patterns--and see if you agree with her impression.




The Voyager missions have since been followed by other probes that produced even more detailed, full-color images of Jupiter, her moons, and other planets. But the Voyager craft were the first, and their incredibly successful missions that lasted far beyond their anticipated used-by dates is something to be applauded and celebrated. 

It's also noteworthy that they are the most likely crafts of any we've built to date to make contact with an intelligent alien species, and the famous "golden phonograph" might one day be the introduction of  humankind to the universe -- even if it's long, long after we're gone.

Here's a brief video on the golden record, what information it contains, and why it was included on the craft. In the words of Carl Sagan, who chaired the project, "It would be impolite not to say hello."

Godspeed, Voyagers.


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Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 5 RWA Golden Heart finals between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of Science Fiction Romance, our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.