On 20th August 1977 the Voyager 2 spacecraft left the ground it was born on and headed for space.
The Voyager 2 had the simple – and at the same time mammoth – task of exploring the solar system around Neptune but in 1989 that mission ended and it was given new orders – interstellar exploration.
Now, the spacecraft crossed through the heliosphere on 5th November according to data reviewed by NASA’s scientists. The space exploration organisation says that Voyager 2 now occupies the space between stars scientists call the heliopause.
The heliopause is said to be a space where interstellar material meets the warm solar winds. The interesting thing to note is that while Voyager 1 crossed this boundary in 2012, Voyager 2 will be able to gather data from this space between the stars thanks to working instruments, something Voyager 1 lost on its journey through space.
At current estimates Voyager 2 is 18 billion kilometres from Earth and while mission operators can still communicate with the vessel transmission take 16.5 hours to travel to Voyager 2 from Earth. Communication is made possible thanks to NASA’s Deep Space Network.
“Voyager has a very special place for us in our heliophysics fleet. Our studies start at the Sun and extend out to everything the solar wind touches. To have the Voyagers sending back information about the edge of the Sun’s influence gives us an unprecedented glimpse of truly uncharted territory,” director of the heliophysics division at NASA, Nicola Fox said in a statement.
You can check out a video summing up Voyager 2’s journey so far, below.
What floors us is that Voyager 2 is still working. Powered by the decay of radioactive material, the spacecraft was only meant to survive for five years but here we are 41 years later.
It’s also worth mentioning that both Voyager vessels contain a slice of humanity in the Golden Record. The Golden Record contains pictures, sounds and mementos from Earth and act as a sort of time capsule should any intelligent life stumble upon it in the vastness of space.[Source – Nasa] [Image – NASA/JPL-Caltech]