Why NASA’s twin Voyagers probes are the most important spacecraft ever launched — and could be the last evidence of humanity’s existence

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About 1 billion years from now, the sun will begin to die, blow off its outer atmosphere, and engulf our tiny planet in hot plasma.

Luckily, the galaxy will have NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft to remember us by.

The two nuclear-powered probes launched 40 years ago and became the first and only robots to take close-up photographs of Uranus and Neptune, the planets’ moons and rings, and other objects in the outer solar system.

The Voyagers also carried with them a golden record of sounds, images, and other information about life on Earth — a basic human catalog that aliens might one day discover and decode.

The mission is now detailed in a remarkable PBS documentary called "The Farthest", which premiered on August 23 and will re-air on September 13 at 10 p.m. ET.

"Fifty years from now, Voyager will be the science project of the 20th century," Brad Smith, a Voyager imaging scientist, said in the movie.

Here’s why many scientists and engineers not only hail Voyager as the farthest, fastest, and longest-lived space mission, but also one of humanity’s greatest endeavors.

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NASA began working on the Voyager mission in 1972 with a budget of $865 million, or roughly $5 billion in 2017-adjusted dollars.

Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech, Bureau of Labor Statistics

The goal was to tour the outer solar system using a planetary alignment that happens just once every 176 years. The gravity of the planets would speed up the spacecraft, allowing at least one probe to visit Uranus and Neptune for the first time.

Source: "The Farthest"/PBS

NASA worried that Jupiter’s radiation fields might short-circuit the Voyagers. So engineers shielded and grounded cables of the probes with kitchen-grade aluminum foil. (It worked.)


Source: "The Farthest"/PBS

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from SAI http://read.bi/2gfeBcy