When it crossed that threshold,
"I don't know if it's in the same league as landing on the moon, but it's right up there -- 'Star Trek' stuff, for sure,"
Not bad for a probe that was built for a four-year mission. Optimists, of course, packed a gold-plated, copper disc with greetings in multiple languages, as well as photos and songs ("Johnny B.
In 1977, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were sent on an ambitious tour of our solar system's gas giants -- Jupiter and Saturn. Voyager 2 went on to visit Neptune and Uranus and is on its way out of the solar system. Voyager 1 used Saturn's gravity to slingshot toward Pluto and then to interstellar space.
Some of the technology on the probes stopped working years ago. Voyager 1 stopped sending back photos to conserve power. All of the technology, while state of the art when the probes were launched, is as outdated now as that 8-track deck.
On Voyager 1, all of it worked long enough, and well enough, to propel the probe 11.7 billion miles from home, into a part of space mankind has only theorized about. The probe is still racing away at a pace of 38,000 miles per hour. It's so far away that radio waves from Earth take 17 hours to make the trip.
It took scientists just over a year to recognize that Voyager 1 had made its exit. The actual date that the probe departed the heliosphere, according to the Science piece, was
Scientists expected the boundary to be marked by a shift in the direction of magnetic fields, but that didn't happen. It's one of the reasons that some experts were skeptical of the announcement.
"I'm actually not going to believe it for another year or two until it's been solidly outside for a while,"
Luckily, if past is prologue, Voyager 1 has time to prove it.
Scientists estimate Voyager 1's 23-watt, nuclear-powered transmitter is good for another dozen years.
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