Space Minute PSA Series #8: Voyager Probes
NASA’s exploration of deep space has come a long way since the Pioneer mission that sent six probes into our solar system more than 50 years ago.
But where are those early probes now?
Pioneers 6 though 11 no longer send back signals to Earth and are ghost ships on a millions-of-years journey to the next star in their path. But, believe it or not, Voyager 1 and 2, launched in 1977, are still phoning home from beyond our solar system.
Voyager 1 traveled farther than anyone, or anything, in history, when it left the solar system for interstellar space in 2012. Voyager 2 is still inside the last bit of space still under the influence of our sun in an area called the heliosheath.
Today, both probes send back data about interstellar plasma flows around the heliosphere—the bubble of charged particles and magnetic fields created by the sun that extends far beyond Pluto. And they will gather information on what lies beyond: space where the sun has zero impact on particles and waves.
Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 will go dark around 2025, but the data they’ve collected will illuminate stellar studies for years to come.
Captain Winston Scott is a retired U.S. Navy fighter pilot and astronaut who flew on two space shuttle missions and walked in space three times. He’s now an administrator and faculty member at the Florida Institute of Technology. More information on Space Minutes at wfit.org.