Originally published: August 2017
|Voyager 2 begins its first mile of billions to follow, August 20, 1977.|
At a time when American society seems to be seriously fractured, it can't hurt to look back at a period of time when there was far greater national unity – and a greater thirst for knowledge.
On August 20 – this Sunday – NASA and the scientific community will be celebrating the launch of Voyager 2, the research vehicle that has now left our solar system and has covered over 11 billion miles. Voyager 1 launched three weeks after Voyager 2, but due to its trajectory it has wracked up an astonishing 13 billion miles.
Five years ago, on August 25, 2012, Voyager 1 became the first human-built vehicle to enter a region previously thought to be unreachable: interstellar space. Voyager 2 is also now nearing the boundary of interstellar space. Amazingly, 40 years later the instruments on both of these explorers continue to function.
|Voyager 1 looks toward home in this artist depiction showing planetary orbits.|
The written word fails when it comes to the achievements of these spacecraft, so take some time to absorb their greatness on Wednesday, August 23 when PBS broadcasts a special program titled, “The Farthest – Voyager in Space,” airing at 9 p.m. EDT.
Of course, expect to learn about the creation of the famous “Golden Records” - albums intended to charm alien ears with music ranging from Mozart to Chuck Berry, should interstellar travelers come upon a Voyager.
So much focus is being showered upon Monday's total eclipse, which truly is a monumental event. But this PBS tribute to Voyager will celebrate our ability to take active steps to find new discoveries, rather than sitting back and simply observing natural phenomenon.
Let's all hope that soon our nation will regain some sanity and return to using science in the realization of achievements driven by curiosity – the urgent sense of purpose we once had.