NASA announced on today, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, that Voyager 1 has become the first spacecraft to enter interstellar space after more than 36 years since it was launched from Earth. It is 11.5 billion miles or 17 light-hours away.
It is hurtling onward at a speed of 17 kilometers per second (over 38,000 miles per hour).
Here is a clipping from USA Today showing a nice timeline and distance, to scale, of the travels of Voyager 1.
It gets boring now, since there is not much for the spacecraft to encounter out there. It will take another 40,000 years before it has traveled far enough to reach the nearest star – if it’s going into a direction where there is a star.
NASA expects that its nuclear power source will run out around 2025, and it will then have to shut down and stop transmitting. I still remember the day the Voyager was launched on September 5, 1977.
The craft is often described to be the size of a small car, albeit with a big boom sticking out of it. There is a life-sized replica of the Voyager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. I have seen that during a visit when they had an annual Open House event some years ago. I highly recommend attending that Open House, by the way. But when I just researched when the next one would take place, I found out that due to budget cuts they have canceled it this year.
This is a travesty.
We have money for cruise missiles to throw into Syria at $1.45 million a piece, but we cannot pay for an Open House event at JPL?
I have to leave. Beam me up, Scotty.