|Exploring The Planets
The Voyager Mission
Voyager was a two-spacecraft mission to the outer planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Instruments aboard each Voyager studied the structure, composition, and dynamics of the planets' atmospheres, their magnetic fields and radiation belts, and the surfaces and atmospheres of their satellites.
Voyager 1, launched September 5, 1977, passed Jupiter in March 1979, Saturn in November 1980, and continued on a trajectory that took it out of the Solar System above the plane of the planets. Voyager 2, launched August 20, 1977, reached Jupiter in July, 1979 and Saturn in August 1981. Following a gravity assist by massive Saturn, Voyager 2 continued on to explore Uranus in January 1986 and Neptune in August 1989. Pluto could not be included in Voyager's tour because its orbital position was out of range of the spacecraft's path. The alignment of the outer planets that made such a "grand tour" possible will not occur again until the year 2157.
Voyager 1 and 2 Trajectories
An artist's concept of the positions of the Voyager spacecraft in relation to structures formed around our Sun by the solar wind.
|Voyager 2 continues to travel away
from our Solar System, sending back information on interplanetary space.
It continues to operate well, but our ability to pick up the faint signals
will limit reception from the aging spacecraft.
Voyager 1 is the most distant spacecraft, 100 times as far from the Sun as the Earth is. It has passed the termination shock, the place where the solar wind abruptly slows down, and it is now traveling through a zone called the heliosheath. In the heliosheath, the Sunís magnetic field and solar wind still dominate the environment. At the boundary of the heliosheath, called the heliopause, the interstellar wind takes over. Scientists expect Voyager 1 to leave the region of the Sunís influence and enter interstellar space in about 10 years. On a different trajectory, Voyager 2 may enter interstellar space about 3 years after that.
The Sounds of Earth
|On the chance that someday they may be found by another civilization, the Voyagers each carry a copper phonograph record. Recorded on it are greetings in 60 languages, music from different cultures, and natural sounds such as wind, surf and animals. The record also contains signals that can be converted into pictures.|
Jupiter || Saturn
|| Uranus || Neptune || Our
Exploring The Planets
©2002 National Air and Space Museum