Features Saturday, January 10, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute | January 10, 2015 | 9:55 am IST The Voyager 1 is a space probe launched by NASA on September 5, 1977, to study the outer Solar System. That makes it one of the oldest pieces of space technology that is still in contact with Earth. The probe which was initially launched just to survey Jupiter, has become one of the most successful space exploration missions revealing breath taking insights of all the planets in the outer solar system. Achievements Operating for 37 years, 4 months and 4 days as of January 10, 2015, the spacecraft has traveled 11 billion miles - the equivalent of circling the Earth 440,000 times. Yet it has hardly explored the vast expanse of space out there. It will take 40,000 years for V1 to reach only two light-years distance from the sun. As large as 11 billion is, space is infinitely bigger. Its satellites were initially only supposed to last five years, but NASA is maintaining contact with Voyager 1 through the use of radio waves, a system that should be viable well beyond the stretches of our solar system.  Voyager 1 has explored all the giant planets of our outer solar system, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune; 48 of their moons; and the unique system of rings and magnetic fields those planets possess and yet continues to go on. While building the spacecraft, scientists used long-lasting plutonium batteries for fuel, and those batteries are still going strong today and are expected to last throughout the 2020s. Facts  Perhaps the most interesting fact about the space probe is that it contains a message to alien life forms it may encounter. An audio-visual recording in the form of a gold-plated phonograph record - containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth which were chosen by a committee headed by Dr Carl Sagan. The record has greetings in over 55 languages, pictures of Earth's life forms, various scientific knowledge, and recordings of pieces of music and earth sounds, like the sound of waves crashing on the shore. Voyager is also credited of taking one of the most familiar pictures today of Jupiter's Great Red Spot, which is an anticyclonic storm larger than the size of Earth. Another fact is that the Voyager 1 is the fastest space technology we have - at 39,000 miles per hour, even though spacecrafts with better technology have been launched years later. This speed owes to the fact that, the Voyager - during its initial years used the gravitational fields of planets to propel itself even faster and has been going steady ever since. In August 2012, Voyager 1 became the first ever man made object to leave the solar system and enter interstellar space, effectively taking humanity between the stars around Aug. 25, 2012. Future The future for the Voyager is uncertain as scientists are still in doubt about its power. It is destined perhaps eternally to wander the Milky Way galaxy. Though NASA has sent the New Horizons space probe, it will never pass Voyager, despite being launched from Earth at a faster speed than the first spacecraft. New Horizons is traveling at about 15 km/s, 2 km/s slower than Voyager 1, and is still slowing down. When New Horizons reaches the same distance from the Sun as Voyager 1 is now, its speed will be about 13 km/s Provided Voyager 1 does not collide with anything and is not retrieved, it is going to hold the record for the farthest man made object in space for a very long time. Tweet Follow @thenewsminute

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