This date in science: NASA launched Voyager 2 space probe2 min read

August 20, 1977. NASA launched the phenomenal Voyager 2 space probe to the outer solar system on this date in 1977. They launched it some weeks before its twin craft, Voyager 1, which moved faster and eventually passed it to become the most distant human-made object from Earth, perhaps the first to leave the solar system. Voyager 2 has been operating for 35 years, 11 months, and 31 days as of August 20, 2013. Although its transmissions are faint, coming as they do from very far away, the craft still transmits data and receives messages via NASA’s Deep Space Network. Scientists believe it will be able to continue communications until around the year 2025.

As Voyager 2 sped away from Earth, it looked back and acquired this image of a crescent-shaped Earth and moon — the first of its kind ever taken by a spacecraft — on Sept. 18, 1977. Voyager 2 was 7.25 million miles (11.66 million kilometers) from Earth at the time. Image via NASA.

As Voyager 2 sped away from Earth, it looked back and acquired this image of a crescent-shaped Earth and moon — the first of its kind ever taken by a spacecraft — on Sept. 18, 1977. Voyager 2 was 7.25 million miles (11.66 million kilometers) from Earth at the time. Image via NASA.

 

Voyager project manager in 1977 was John Casani, shown here with small flag that was folded and sewed into the thermal blankets of the Voyager spacecraft before launch. Voyager 2 is behind him. Also shown is one of the famous gold records carried by the Voyagers.

Voyager project manager in 1977 was John Casani, shown here with small flag that was folded and sewed into the thermal blankets of the Voyager spacecraft before launch. Voyager 2 is behind him. Also shown is one of the famous gold records carried by the Voyagers.

 

NASA originally conceived of the Voyager mission in the 1960s as a planetary Grand Tour to study the outer planets. The fact that all four outer planets would be, temporarily, within one quadrant of the solar system around the decade of the 1980s inspired the idea. Inevitable funding difficulties intervened, and for a time it appeared the Grand Tour would never be realized. But Voyager 2′s launch took advantage not only of the particular configuration of planets – but also a new technique, called a gravity assist. This technique let the craft visit all four outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune), while requiring a minimal amount of propellant and a shorter transit duration between planets.

The plan hinged on whether Voyager 1 would be able to perform a successful flyby of Saturn’s large and intriguing moon Titan. It did, and Voyager 2 got the go-ahead to travel on toward Uranus and Neptune, ultimately realizing the vision of the planetary Grand Tour.

Voyager 2 remains the only craft from Earth to have visited Uranus and Neptune.

Bottom line: The phenomenal Voyager 2 spacecraft launched on August 20, 1977. It ultimately visited all four outer planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – and remains the only craft from Earth to have done so.

Source: Earthsky.org

Enhanced by Zemanta
SHARE THIS POST
Love
Haha
Wow
Sad
Angry

Sebastien Clarke

Astronaut is dedicated to bringing you the latest news, reviews and information from the world of space, entertainment, sci-fi and technology. With videos, images, forums, blogs and more, get involved today & join our community!
Sebastien Clarke
Sebastien Clarke

Astronaut is dedicated to bringing you the latest news, reviews and information from the world of space, entertainment, sci-fi and technology. With videos, images, forums, blogs and more, get involved today & join our community!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like...

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from Astronaut.com.

You have Successfully Subscribed!