Pasadena: On Wednesday, Voyager 1 will mark its 35th anniversary of launching to Jupiter and Saturn.
Since its launch, Voyager 1- a first time manmade object, has travelled billions of miles and now after thirty-five years of leaving the Earth, it is all set burst out of the solar system bubble and enter a new realm of space.
When NASA`s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 first rocketed out of Earth`s grip in 1977, no one knew how long they would live. Now, they are the longest-operating spacecraft in history and the most distant, at billions of miles from Earth but in different directions.
Outside the solar system bubble is a new frontier in the Milky Way - the space between stars. Once it plows through, scientists expect a calmer environment by comparison.
When that would happen is anyone`s guess. Voyager 1 is in uncharted celestial territory. One thing is clear: The boundary that separates the solar system and interstellar space is near, but it could take days, months or years to cross that milestone.
Voyager 1 is currently more than 11 billion miles from the sun. Twin Voyager 2, which celebrated its launch anniversary two weeks ago, trails behind at 9 billion miles from the sun.
They`re still ticking despite being relics of the early Space Age.
Each has only 68 kilobytes of computer memory. To put that in perspective, the smallest iPod — an 8-gigabyte iPod Nano — is 100,000 times more powerful. Each also has an eight-track tape recorder. Today`s spacecraft use digital memory.
The Voyagers` original goal was to tour Jupiter and Saturn, and they send back postcards of Jupiter`s big red spot and Saturn`s glittery rings. They also beamed home a torrent of discoveries: erupting volcanoes on the Jupiter moon Io; hints of an ocean below the icy surface of Europa, another Jupiter moon; signs of methane rain on the Saturn moon Titan.
Voyager 2 has journeyed to Uranus and Neptune. It remains the only spacecraft to fly by these two outer planets. Voyager 1 used Saturn as a gravitational slingshot to catapult itself toward the edge of the solar system.
The double missions so far have cost $983 million in 1977 dollars, which translates to $3.7 billion now. The spacecrafts have enough fuel to last until around 2020.
By that time, scientists hope, Voyager will already be floating between the stars.
(With Agency inputs)