Every so often, it is good to reflect.
Amongst the threat of war, massive floods, an economy still struggling, and various celebrities behaving miserably, it’s easy to overlook a monumental achievement and milestone:
Voyager One has officially left the solar system!
Wish we, as a country, would take the time to celebrate this and focus on what an incredible accomplishment this is. Voyager One is literally beyond the stars and the moon as we know it. Think of what the technology was 36 years ago, and how impossible it is to call a repair man and fix something that far from home.
All Americans have yet another reason to be proud.
What is Voyager One?
Voyager 1 is a 722-kilogram (1,590 lb) space probe launched by NASA on September 5, 1977 to study the outer Solar System. Operating for 36 years and 11 days as of 16 September 2013, the spacecraft communicates with the Deep Space Network to receive routine commands and return data. At a distance of about 125 AU from the Sun as of August 2013, it is the farthest manmade object from Earth. – WIKIPEDIA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyager_1
Press Release from NASA:
September 12, 2013
Whether and when NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, humankind’s most distant object, broke through to interstellar space, the space between stars, has been a thorny issue. For the last year, claims have surfaced every few months that Voyager 1 has “left our solar system.” Why has the Voyager team held off from saying the craft reached interstellar space until now?
“We have been cautious because we’re dealing with one of the most important milestones in the history of exploration,” said Voyager Project Scientist Ed Stone of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “Only now do we have the data — and the analysis — we needed.”
Basically, the team needed more data on plasma, which is ionized gas, the densest and slowest moving of charged particles in space. (The glow of neon in a storefront sign is an example of plasma.) Plasma is the most important marker that distinguishes whether Voyager 1 is inside the solar bubble, known as the heliosphere, which is inflated by plasma that streams outward from our sun, or in interstellar space and surrounded by material ejected by the explosion of nearby giant stars millions of years ago. Adding to the challenge: they didn’t know how they’d be able to detect it.
Read full press release from NASA here.