On this day in 1977, Voyager 2 was launched from Earth. It was actually launched before Voyager 1 — you know astronomers. Well actually, because of the route it took, it actually ended up visiting Jupiter and Saturn afterwards. And since the only thing that most people care about are the pretty pictures (Not that I’m complaining!) it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The remarkable thing is that Voyager 2 — now in space for 38 years — is still operating. In the next couple of years, it is expected to start sending data about the density and temperature in the interstellar region. It is currently over 100 AU (one AU is the distance from the earth to the sun). That’s over twice the distance to Pluto at Pluto’s greatest distance from the sun. It is believed that Voyager 2 will continue sending data back to earth until 2025.
I had always thought that Voyager 2 was the spacecraft that was repaired by aliens and made self-aware in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. But that’s not true. It was actually Voyager 6. If you don’t remember that spacecraft, it is probably because it never existed. In the universe of the film, NASA launched it but then lost sight of it. Still: really not a bad film at all!
Happy anniversary Voyager 2!