More than eight billion miles from home, Voyager 2 still exploring

Perhaps because I was at just the right age when the Voyager probes were making their Grand Tour through our solar system, robotic space explorers have always had a special place in my heart.  Call me odd (you wouldn’t be the first) but there is something romantic to me about the notion of these isolated pioneers faithfully doing their jobs so many millions — even billions — of miles away from home, in the loneliest places imaginable.

I’ve written before about Spirit and Opportunity (“As Mars mission ends, our yearning continues”).  I was even moved by the moment in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (the surprisingly-boring-but-underrated 1979 movie, not the recent blockbuster) when it was revealed (spoiler alert) that the vast entity approaching earth was V’ger — an “evolved” Voyager probe who was simply trying to return home to its creator and complete its mission.

In this context, I was delighted to read today that Voyager 2 — launched in 1977 and now more than 8 billion miles from home — has made yet another new discovery.  At the very edge of the solar system’s definable boundaries, far beyond the planets (it’s more than twice as far away from the Sun as dwarf planet Pluto), Voyager 2 is still discovering things that make us change our theories — answering some questions while causing us to ask new ones.  You can read about the latest news here: “Near the Edge of the Solar System, Voyager 2 Finds Magnetic Fluff.”

I have a draft commentary I have struggled with on and off concerning the famous “pale blue dot” photograph taken by Voyager 2’s brother, Voyager 1, in it’s incredible “Family Portrait” mosaic, and I hope to finish it one day.  But the news of this current discovery was heartening, and I thought I would pass it on in the event that any other Voyagerphiles out there might be interested.

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5 thoughts on “More than eight billion miles from home, Voyager 2 still exploring

  1. purplehymnal

    Hi, Wally, great post!

    I was sitting in a theatre watching live images being sent back from Uranus by Voyager II, being interpreted for us by techs from the Space Agency. We were told at the time that the electronics on Voyager were actually outstripped (this was in the late 80s) by a TI graphing scientific calculator that was half the size of the computer on the space probe.

    Of course, nowadays, that calculator’s computing power is contained in circuitry the size of a fingernail clipping. Which is why we currently have truly awe-inspiring images being sent back from Saturn. Have you seen the Cassini pics? http://tinyurl.com/yg7n48f The detail of the rings and Saturn’s moons is astonishing!

    Aggie, fellow space exploration fanatic (I’m partial to the SOHO pics and information, too, but maybe that’s the pagan sun-worshipper in me LOL), and formerly-fanatical Trekkie

  2. Craig

    Yes thanks for this. Carl Sagan would be most pleased if he were still alive. It is fascinating that in this age where nothing is built to last, this technology still functions after 33 years in space! Love Carl’s book “Pale Blue Dot” and used it several times over the years.

    Still have fond memories of rigging a UHF TV antenna to pick up Carl at JPL in 1980 as he was commenting on live Voyager 1 pictures from Saturn. Being the first generation in human history to view the rings and moons up close sent chills down my spine.

    Although I wouldn’t go as far as calling the “V’ger” movie boring. Dated maybe (Captain Kirk saves the world yet again), but the plot still works. At least it is not juvenile like that Star Wars stuff. 😉

  3. purplehymnal

    Yep, that’s astounding all right. But don’t get me started on APOD, I can get sucked into that site and kill literally hours browsing the archives. 🙂

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