Discover the World News Forecast . . . FIRST in Foresight Journalism

UNITED STATES 20 Aug & 5 Sep 2012 Voyager twins left Earth 35 years ago

In 2012 it will be 35 years since NASA launched the twin spacecraft Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 separately from Cape Canaveral, Flo

August 20, 2012 - NULL

UNITED STATES 20 Aug & 5 Sep 2012 Voyager twins left Earth 35 years ago

In 2012 it will be 35 years since NASA launched the twin spacecraft Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 separately from Cape Canaveral, Florida. They were built to last five years and to conduct close-up studies of Jupiter and Saturn, Saturn's rings, and the larger moons of the two planets. NASA reports that the Voyagers are still alive, heading out of the solar system and continuing to return data. The Voyagers are expected to return valuable data for at least another decade.

Communications will be maintained

UNITED STATES 20 Aug & 5 Sep 2012 Voyager twins left Earth 35 years ago

In 2012 it will be 35 years since NASA launched the twin spacecraft Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 separately from Cape Canaveral, Florida. They were built to last five years and to conduct close-up studies of Jupiter and Saturn, Saturn's rings, and the larger moons of the two planets. NASA reports that the Voyagers are still alive, heading out of the solar system and continuing to return data. The Voyagers are expected to return valuable data for at least another decade.

Communications will be maintained until the Voyagers' power sources can no longer supply enough electrical energy to power critical subsystems.

Voyager 2, launched first, on 20 Aug 1977, is headed out of the solar system, diving below the ecliptic plane at an angle of about 48 degrees and a rate of about 290 million miles a year. Voyager 1, launched on a faster and shorter trajectory on 5 Sep 1977, has crossed into the heliosheath and is leaving the solar system, rising above the ecliptic plane at an angle of about 35 degrees at a rate of about 320 million miles a year.

Spaceflight Now notes that no spacecraft has ever left the solar system before, so Voyager 1 is flying through an uncharted void between the influence of the sun and the interstellar wind, which blows waves of plasma and charged particles at a clip of up to 15 miles per second.

Both spacecraft will continue to study ultraviolet sources among the stars, and the fields and particles instruments aboard the Voyagers will continue to explore the boundary between the Sun's influence and interstellar space.

With the successful achievement of the Voyagers' preliminary objectives, mission scientists set them on the path of flybys of the two outermost giant planets, Uranus and Neptune. They were reprogrammed remotely to endow them with greater capabilities than they possessed when they left the Earth.

The flyby of each planet bends the spacecraft's flight path and increases its velocity enough to deliver it to the next destination. Using this "gravity assist" technique, first demonstrated with NASA's Mariner 10 Venus/Mercury mission in 1973-74, the flight time to Neptune was reduced from 30 years to 12.

The prime Voyager mission to Jupiter and Saturn brought Voyager 1 to Jupiter on 5 Mar 1979, and to Saturn on 12 Nov 1980, followed by Voyager 2 to Jupiter on 9 Jul 1979, and Saturn on 25 Aug 1981. (WRITTEN Dec 2011)

RELATED READING:

Voyager (JPL-NASA)
http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/science/planetary.html

Voyager on the cusp of entering interstellar space (Spaceflight Now 6 Dec 2011)
http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n1112/06voyager/

Back to Articles
Print | RSS

Date written/update: 2012-08-20