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Voyager Program

two spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 1977, on a mission to explore the outer planets and now the most distant man-made objects in space

As originally designed, the Voyagers were to conduct close-up studies of Jupiter and Saturn, Saturn's rings, and the larger moons of the two planets. But, as the mission went on, flybys of the two outermost giant planets, Uranus and Neptune, proved not only possible but irresistible. Since their launch, the two Voyagers have visited all the giant planets of our Solar System -- Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune -- as well as 48 of their moons. And they are still going!

artist rendering of a Voyager
artist rendering of a Voyager

The Golden Records

Both Voyager spacecraft carry a greeting to any form of life. The message is carried by a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing 115 sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings in 55 languages.

the "Golden Record"
the Golden Record

Program Timeline

August 20, 1977 Voyager 2 launched.
September 5, 1977 Voyager 1 launched.

Voyager 2 being launched atop a Titan-Centaur rocket
Voyager 2 being launched atop a Titan-Centaur rocket

March 5, 1979 Voyager 1 made its closest approach to Jupiter.
July 9, 1979 Voyager 2 made its closest approach to Jupiter.

November 12, 1980 Voyager 1 made its closest approach to Saturn.

August 25, 1981 Voyager 2 made its closest approach to Saturn.

January 24, 1986 Voyager 2 made its closest approach to Uranus.

August 25, 1989 Voyager 1 made its closest approach to Neptune.

February 17, 1998 Voyager 1 became the most distant human-made object in space.

December 2004 Voyager 1 crossed the termination shock and entered the heliosheath -- the region between the end of the Sun's magnetic influence and the beginning of interstellar space.

Present Status

Voyager 1 is escaping the Solar System at a speed of about 3.6 astronomical units (AU) per year. Voyager 2 is escaping at a speed of about 3.3 AU per year.

Although some of the science instruments aboard the craft have been powered down in order preserve power, there are still five in operation. They are:
Magnetic field investigation
Low energy charged particle investigation
Ultraviolet Spectrometer investigation
Cosmic ray investigation
Plasma wave investigation.

Although the original five-year mission has already stretched to one of about 40 years, it is expected that both Voyagers will continue to return valuable data to Earth for another 20 to 30 years.

Note

It takes about 10 hours for signals from the Voyager spacecraft to reach Earth.

Official Voyager Program Website voyager.jpl.nasa.gov

SEE ALSO
Jupiter
Saturn
Uranus

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The Robinson Library >> Technology >> Astronautics >> Unmanned Programs and Missions

This page was last updated on 05/25/2017.