- Voyagers 1 and 2 explore the mysterious region between the stars called interstellar space.
- NASA launched the twin probes in 1977 on a five-year mission to roam the solar system.
- According to the space agency, it should take Voyager 1 40,000 years to reach another star.
About 14.8 billion miles from Earth, the Voyager 1 probe is cruising through the blackness of the interstellar medium — the unexplored space between the stars. It is the most distant man-made object from our planet.
Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were launched in 1977 within 16 days of each other with a design life of five years to study Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and their moons up close.
Now 45 years into their mission, they each made history by venturing beyond the limits of our sun’s influence, known as the heliosphere.
Both intrepid spacecraft continue to send back data from beyond the solar system – and their cosmic journeys are far from over.
In 300 years, Voyager 1 will be able to see the Oort Cloud, and in 296,000 years, Voyager 2 will be able to pass by Sirius
As part of an ongoing energy management effort that has intensified in recent years, engineers have been turning off non-technical systems aboard Voyager’s probes, such as the heaters of their science instruments, in hopes of keeping them going until 2030.
After that, the probes will likely lose their ability to communicate with Earth.
However, even after NASA shuts down its instruments and calls the Voyager mission over, the two probes will continue to drift through interstellar space.
About 300 years from now, NASA said, Voyager 1 should enter the Oort Cloud, a hypothetical globular domain filled with billions of frozen comets. It must take another 30,000 years to reach its end.
A spacecraft takes different paths as it heads into deep space. Voyager 2 is about 12.3 billion miles from Earth today.
It should take the Voyager 1 probe roughly 40,000 years to reach AC+79 3888, a star in the Camelopardalis constellation, according to NASA.
The agency added that within 296,000 years, Voyager 2 should drift by Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.
“Voyagers is set to roam the Milky Way – perhaps forever -,” NASA said.
“It’s really cool that both vehicles are still running.”
NASA designed the twin spacecraft to study the outer solar system. Having completed their primary mission, Voyagers have continued by leaps and bounds, taking a grand tour of our solar system and capturing breathtaking cosmic views.
On February 14, 1990, the Voyager 1 spacecraft captured this “Pale Blue Dot” image from nearly 4 billion miles away. It’s an iconic image of Earth inside a scattered beam of sunlight, and it’s the farthest view of Earth captured by any spacecraft.
For the past decade, Voyager 1 has been exploring interstellar space filled with gas, dust, and charged energy particles. Voyager 2 reached interstellar space in 2018, six years after its twin.
Their observations of the interstellar gas through which they navigate have revolutionized astronomers’ understanding of this unexplored space beyond our cosmic backyard.
“It’s really cool that both spacecraft are still up and running well — some glitches, but they’re working very well and still sending back this valuable data,” Susan Dodd, project manager on the Voyager mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, previously told Insider. “. Adding, “They’re still talking to us.”
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