EXPLOREMY LIBRARY
Culture & Literature
The Story of The Voyager

The Story of The Voyager

The Story of The Voyager

The twin Voyager spacecraft have been speeding through the cosmos for two-thirds of the entire Space Age. Between them they visited four planets and 48 moons, 23 of which we had no idea existed. They saw new rings, volcanoes, geysers and even aurorae. Now Voyager 1 is pushing the very limit of exploration, as it ventures into the unknown of interstellar space. In The Story of Voyager we explore their astounding and complex legacy, joined by some of the scientists who worked on the mission, a majestic tale that rewrote the textbooks and is still infuencing NASA today.

Country:
United Kingdom
Language:
English
Publisher:
Immediate Media Company London Limited
Frequency:
One-off
Read More
BUY ISSUE
$19.90(Incl. tax)

in this issue

1 min.
welcome

The twin Voyager spacecraft have been speeding through the cosmos for two-thirds of the entire Space Age. Dreamt up in those heady, halcyon years that preceded the Apollo 11 landing as a ‘Grand Tour’ of the outer planets, and finally launched in 1977, they went on to redefne our understanding of the Solar System. The past 40 years have been revelatory. Between them the Voyagers visited four planets and 48 moons, 23 of which we had no idea existed. They saw new rings, volcanoes, geysers and even aurorae. Now Voyager 1 is pushing the very limit of exploration, as it ventures beyond the solar bubble our star forces out around it and into the unknown of interstellar space. It’s an astounding legacy for a pair of probes that each have around…

1 min.
phase i grand ideas

Before Voyager, our knowledge of the outer giants was patchy. Jupiter had only been visited twice by human probes, Saturn only once, and Uranus and Neptune not at all. Then in 1965, JPL intern Gary Flandro noticed something extraordinary: in the late 1970s, all four outer planets would be ranged on the same side of the Solar System, offering the tantalising prospect of one spacecraft completing a ‘Grand Tour’ of them all. Translating this idea into the eventual Voyager spacecraft was not easy. Their development was plagued by tightening budgets and technical concerns; and, when the probes finally launched in August and September 1977, they were only offcially bound for Jupiter and Saturn. That the Voyagers were built with an extended mission to the outer giants in mind is testament…

5 min.
the pre-voyager years

JULY 2011 MARKED Neptune’s first full orbit of the Sun since its discovery 165 years earlier – the completion of a journey it had traced out millions of times before whilst we on Earth were none the wiser. It seems strange now to think that, only 230 years prior, both Neptune and Uranus were unknown to us and that the Solar System ‘ended’ with Jupiter and Saturn. Even after the existence of Neptune was confirmed by observation in 1846, our ideas about these four outer worlds were far removed from what we know today. They were little more than points of light in the night sky. Known to astronomers and astrologers since antiquity, it’s fitting that Jupiter – one of the brightest objects in the sky – was named after the Romans’…

2 min.
the plucky pioneers

In December 1973, three and a half centuries after Galileo peered at Jupiter, Pioneer 10 became the first man-made machine to visit the planet. During its passage, the probe suffered circuit failures, triggered false commands and absorbed 1,000 times the human-lethal dose of high-energy radiation. Yet against all the odds, Pioneer 10 survived. It passed 130,000km over Jupiter’s magnetic equator, revealing an electron flux 10,000 times stronger than Earth’s. It showed the vast magnetic field was inverted, compared to Earth, and its 500 images revealed bright features on Europa and Ganymede. Radio occultations verified the extent and density of Io’s ionosphere, confirming a doughnut-shaped plasma torus and a complex magnetic relationship with Jupiter. Close-range views of atmospheric features, including the Great Red Spot, were returned, as well as the first vertical…

1 min.
the origins of the outer planets

For millennia, humans believed that Earth lay at the centre of creation. That belief changed relatively recently, when Immanuel Kant, Pierre Laplace and others argued that the Sun and its retinue emerged from a gaseous ‘nebula’ that collapsed, drawing in surrounding dust and gas to form a superdense, super-heated core. But the question of how our parent star gained its energy remained unanswered, until Hans Bethe realised in 1938 that the Sun was powered by the fusion of hydrogen and helium. Several astronomers postulated that a near-miss with another star tore gaseous strips from the Sun to form planetary cores. Maybe the culprit was a smaller, cooler ‘proto-star’ or perhaps a binary companion that exploded, leaving a fertile breeding ground for planets in its wake. By 1977, scientific consensus favoured the idea…

10 min.
the chance of three lifetimes

THE DAWN OF the Voyager programme came with a Eureka moment worthy of Archimedes’ bath or Newton’s apocryphal apple. In July 1965, in “a rare moment of great exhilaration” Gary Flandro realised that all four of the giant planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – would be aligned along the ecliptic plane in the late 1970s and early 1980s, allowing for an unprecedented Grand Tour of the outer Solar System. It was his work that sowed the seed for one of the most remarkable adventures in human history. Flandro was an aeronautics postgraduate at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. He drew his inspiration from another mathematician at JPL, Michael Minovitch, who in 1961 attempted to tackle the formidable ‘three-body problem’. This 300-year-old conundrum sought to predict exactly…