One of those things happened this week.
"It's the furthest man-made object from us,"
It's the first time any man-made object has left our neighborhood in space. By doing so, Voyager is embarking on a new world of discovery. If there be starry dragons, Voyager will find them.
It also means we are leaving our mark in a new place.
"We are now an interstellar species," said astronomer
And, Voyager is carrying a remarkable cargo: The Golden Record, a disc that summarizes human accomplishment, carrying everything from an
Voyager I was launched in 1977, as was its twin Voyager II. By the mid-1980s, the two had given Earth its first really good pictures of the giant gas planets of our solar system -- Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. If they'd done nothing else, the Voyager mission would be a triumph.
"The Pioneer mission had gone there before," said Hammel, a former
They then got a new mission -- to leave the solar system entirely. Voyager I probably crossed that boundary in the summer of 2012. Voyager II is now approaching it.
Because we've never been there before, we don't know exactly where interstellar space begins. So for much of the past year, there's been speculation about when Voyager I would actually leave the heliosphere -- the area where our sun's solar winds blow.
So now, we're getting data from Voyager I in a totally unexplored place.
"We can look at interstellar space from earth-orbiting telescopes, from ground-based telescopes," Dodd said. "But this is the first time we have something in that environment."
Voyager I is generating signals to Earth from a source of energy equivalent to what's needed to power a refrigerator light bulb. Dodd says
Then, it becomes a bottle carrying a message. In the millennia hence, should anyone out there encounter Voyager I, find the Golden Record and discern a way to get the information on it, they'll hear greetings in 55 languages. They'll hear dogs barking and wind blowing and crickets chirping.
They'll see pictures of
And they will think, "What a strange, wonderful place, this planet Earth is."
"It really is a time capsule of us," Dodd said. "We're out there, in interstellar space."
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