We all need stories that ignite our imaginations and provide inspiration for our lives and dreams.The story of the Voyager Mission has been an inspiration for me. There were two Voyager spacecraft launched in the late 1970s. I was first married around that time but I did not become aware of Voyager until the Fall of 2009 when I was a student in a teaching credential program. Learning about Voyager really captured my imagination. I created a lesson for my students which included some of the great photos from the NASA website. I hoped it would inspire them as well and engage their interest in space exploration and science.
The Voyagers were designed to perform studies of Jupiter, Saturn, Saturn’s rings and the larger moons of those two planets. Later the mission was expanded to include Uranus, Neptune and a total of 48 moons of the four planets. Voyager sent back many beautiful images of these planets and moons. The voyagers made several discoveries including 3 new moons of Jupiter, 11 new moons of Uranus and five of Neptune. The Great Red Spot of Jupiter could be seen through earth telescopes but Voyager found out it was actually a storm moving counterclockwise across the planet. One of Jupiter’s moons, Io, was shown to have nine erupting volcanoes. These were the first active volcanoes seen anywhere else in the solar system. One of Saturn’s moons, Titan, has an atmospheric chemistry that may be like Earth’s before life evolved. On February 14, 1990, Voyager 1 took the final pictures of the mission 3.7 billion miles away from us. Voyager turned back toward earth and captured an image that Carl Sagan called ” a pale blue dot.” More information about the mission can been found on the Fact Sheet.
Placed on each spacecraft is The Golden Record which contains our message to any extraterrestrial intelligent life that may discover our spacecraft in the future. Each record has encoded on it images from earth, information on anatomy, DNA, spoken greetings in 55 different languages, music and natural sounds including a human heartbeat, animals, birds, ocean and weather. You can listen to these sounds and see some of the photos on the NASA website.
Written on the cover of the record are instructions for accessing the information and images, spoken messages, music and sounds ; a pulsar map showing the location of our solar system; a drawing of the hydrogen atom, and a kind of radioactive clock that would allow extraterrestrials to determine when the spacecraft was launched.
Recently the Voyagers have entered interstellar space. They will continue on their journey through the Milky Way. The last instrument on the spacecraft is expected to stop working in 2025.
The Voyager Mission was an inspiration for part of the first Star Trek movie in 1979 which is about the Enterprise finding an alien spacecraft that calls itself V’ Ger. The crew discovers that is was originally an earth probe called Voyager 6 that was redesigned by an alien machine race and sent back to find its creator.
Maybe someday our descendants will receive a return message.