Where Are the Voyagers Now? Remembering the Amazing Voyager Missions

Many people remember exactly where they were
when humans first set foot on the Moon. But for those of us born after 1969, we’ve
got to hang on to other epic moments in spaceflight history. I vividly remember watching the first launch
of the space shuttle in 1981 when I was 9 years old, and I remember when NASA’s Voyager
spacecraft swept past each of the outer giant planets in the Solar System: Jupiter, Saturn,
Uranus and Neptune. It’s been nearly 40 years since the Voyagers
blasted away from Earth, on their voyage into interstellar space, and here’s the most
amazing part. They’re still operational. Still working hard to deliver us science,
from the outer Solar System. As I record this video, Voyager 1 is the most
distant object ever created by human beings, more than 20 billion kilometers away from
Earth, more than 4 times the distance to Pluto. Here’s the really mind bending part. Voyager 1 is the farthest object we know of
in the entire Solar System. But I’m getting ahead of myself, it’s
time to look back, nearly 40 years and remember the Voyager missions and their amazing accomplishments
over the decades. The Voyager missions were developed in the
early 1970s to take advantage of a rare alignment of the giant planets in the Solar System. With the right launch speed, trajectories
and planetary slingshots it could be possible to send a spacecraft past each of the large
planets in the Solar System: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Over the course of their primary mission,
the spacecraft were to visit Jupiter and Saturn, but the mission controllers couldn’t help
but add Uranus and Neptune to the list, reprogramming the spacecraft as they explored the Solar
System to continue onward. Between them, the twin spacecraft observed
4 planets, 48 moons, as well as their rings, and magnetospheres. Their original mission should have been only
5 years, but they were extended to 12, and now, almost 40 years later, they’re still
going and going. Voyager 2 lifted off first, on August 20,
1977 with a trajectory that gave it the option to add Uranus and Neptune later on in its
trip. Voyager 1 went second on September 5, 1977
but followed a faster, shorter trajectory. Their first destination was Jupiter, the largest
planet in the Solar System. Voyager 1 arrived at the giant planet on March
5th, 1979, passing within a few hundred thousand kilometers of Jupiter’s cloud tops. It observed the incredible storm systems in
Jupiter’s upper atmosphere, and helped to discover that Jupiter, like Saturn, has a
ring system. Perhaps the biggest discovery at Jupiter was
with its moons. The Voyagers discovered that Jupiter’s innermost
large moon Io has active volcanoes, spewing lava high into space – the first time volcanism
had been seen anywhere else in the Solar System. They observed cracks on the surface of Europa
and Ganymede, indicating that both worlds have some kind of subsurface ocean beneath
an icy crust. Between them, the two spacecraft took more
than 33,000 pictures of Jupiter and its moons. Next up was Saturn, and in my opinion, the
highlight of the whole Voyager program. Although the Ringed Planet had already been
visited by Pioneer 11 in 1979, the Voyagers took things to the next level. Voyager 1 arrived in November, 1980 and sent
back high resolution images of Saturn, as well as its moons and rings. Voyager 1 was selected to make a closer flyby
of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon and the second largest moon in the Solar System. It discovered that Titan’s atmosphere is
mostly made of nitrogen, like Earth. Unfortunately it was too dense to see down
to the surface. We’d need to wait for Cassini to show us
what’s down there. Voyager 1 discovered that Saturn’s upper
atmosphere seems to contain less helium than scientists were expecting, which indicates
that the helium is slowly sinking down into the center of the planet. Voyager 2 arrived 9 months later in August,
1981. It passed within 41,000 kilometers of Saturn
and made even more observations of the planet and its environment. Together, the Voyagers provided the first
tantalizing hint of geysers emanating from Enceladus – which Cassini confirmed decades
later. And together they discovered the huge hexagonal
vortex at the planet’s north pole. At this point, the Voyagers parted company. Voyager 1 continued on from Saturn with no
more destinations, while Voyager 2 performed a slingshot maneuver that put it on course
to visit the outer ice giants. Voyager 2 still had two more destinations
to go. Its next destination was Uranus in January,
1986, when it passed within 81,500 kilometers of the planet. This was the first time (and so far last)
time that any spacecraft ever reached Uranus. These are the only close up pictures we have
of Uranus and its moons, thanks to Voyager 2. The spacecraft made several new discoveries
about Uranus. The planet was flipped over onto its side
by some collision in the ancient past. Voyager discovered that not only does Uranus
have a magnetosphere, but the it’s twisted into a corkscrew shape that trails behind
the planet as it orbits the Sun. Voyager 2 observed the planet’s rings, and
collection of moons. But perhaps the strangest discovery was its
moon Miranda. Voyager 2 observed huge cracks and canyons
on the surface of Miranda as deep as 20 km. Is it possible that the moon was smashed up
in the ancient past, and then reformed from the shattered pieces? The final stop on the Grand Tour was Neptune,
visited by Voyager 2 in the summer of 1989. I remember this image vividly, on television
and in the newspapers, it was the summer I graduated from high school. Voyager 2 passed just 4,950 kilometers above
Neptune’s north pole, closer than any other object during its voyage. Since this was Voyager 2’s last stop, NASA
was willing to throw caution to the wind. The spacecraft discovered that the winds on
Neptune blow faster than anywhere else in the Solar System, triple the speed of Jupiter. It discovered that the planet has storms swirling
across its surface like the other giant planets. It fine tuned estimates of Neptune’s mass,
discovered six new moons and observed its ring system up close for the first time. Perhaps the most tantalizing was the close
up images of Neptune’s moon Triton. A bizarre moon that dominates the Neptunian
system, and orbits backwards from all the other large moons in the Solar System. Scientists think it was a captured Kuiper
Belt Object, stolen in the ancient past. With Triton in its rearview mirror, Voyager
2 carried on, out into deep space. Once the Grand Tour was over, but the Voyagers
still had more science to do. We’ll talk about that in a moment, but first
I’d like to thank: Anton Velmozhniy
John Clark Alex Boisselle And the rest of our 765 patrons for their
generous support. If you love what we’re doing and want to
get in on the action, head over to patreon.com/universetoday. In August, 2012, the spacecraft officially
made the leap to interstellar space, escaping the Sun’s heliosphere. In case you weren’t familiar, the heliosphere
is a region of ionized plasma that surrounds the Sun, blown out into space by its solar
wind, like an inflated balloon. This bubble is what separates the Sun’s
solar wind from the collective solar winds of all the other stars in the Milky Way. The Voyagers crossed the region dominated
by the Sun into interstellar space. Even though they’re now more than 20 billion
kilometers away, they still emit signals of about 23 watts; as much power as a refrigerator
light bulb. Although, by the time these reach Earth, they’re
a billion-billionth of a watt. And yet, they continue onwards. Now, let’s look into the future. What happens next for these spacecraft? At their current pace, they’ll reach the
Oort Cloud in about 300 years. That’s the huge cloud of icy objects thought
to surround the Solar System, and the source of the long period comets we see from time
to time. Unfortunately, they’ll be dead much sooner
than that. Sometime in the next couple of years, the
the radioisotope thermoelectric generator that powers the spacecraft isn’t going to
be able to give it enough electricity to keep its equipment going. The gyroscopes that allow NASA to re-orient
the spacecraft will cease operations. The data recorder will shut down. And in 2020 or so, NASA will start to shut
down their scientific instruments one by one as the power levels continue to decline. Finally, by 2025 to 2030, the Voyagers won’t
have enough electricity to do anything else. We got 40 years from them, but we’ll be
lucky to get to 50. And then, they’ll continue to drift off
into the darkness. Their journey through the Oort Cloud will
last 30,000 years, and in 40,000 years or so, they’ll get within a couple of light-years
of the star Gliese 445. But the Voyagers were built to last. Each was equipped with a Golden Record, containing
sounds and images selected by Carl Sagan. Aliens who encounter the Voyagers will enjoy
the sounds of Earth, like whales, surf and the wind, as well as musical selections. Oh, and a handy map to Earth using a map of
pulsars. The records were made of gold and etched with
a sample of Uranium-238, which has a half life in the billions of years. Future alien civilizations could use this
to determine when the Voyagers were constructed. Ann Druyan, the co-creator of Cosmos, says
that the records themselves will be playable for a billion years. The Voyager spacecraft were some of the most
ambitious robotic spacecraft humans ever built. They carried our senses out to Jupiter and
Saturn, and then Voyager 2 helped us see Uranus and Neptune for the first time ever. We still depend on and reference the images
and observations from these hardworking spacecraft for so much of our understanding of the outer
Solar System. I’ll miss them when they’re gone. What about you? Do you have nostalgic memories about the Voyager
spacecraft? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. In our next episode, we look at the Van Allen
Belts. The radiation that surrounds the Earth; another
dangerous hazard that astronauts face – as if they need any more ways that the Universe
is trying to kill them. That’s next time. Of course, I’ve got a playlist of videos
about the Voyager missions. First up, a video from NASA a few years ago
when Voyager 1 reached interstellar space, Tom Scott visits the Voyager control room
at NASA, Vsauce has message for the future, including Voyager’s golden record, and then
a pair of longer lectures from NASA scientists working with Voyager.

49 thoughts on “Where Are the Voyagers Now? Remembering the Amazing Voyager Missions

  1. So does that mean that we have been to the sun already? I believe that the Cassenni is so far that it is in another solar system, and i believe that they are lying to is about the amount of time it takes to get to another solar system, or another planet. If there is no gravity, and no resistance than even a bullet will travel faster in space than it does with us using it on the ground because there is no resistance.

  2. Im not ashame to shred a tear for this heroic technologies. I love you voyagers, cassini, oppy and many more of them that keeps giving us informations about the unknown world ❤

  3. They should of putted human dna in a case, on the craft. So when we end, our species will continue on somewhere in the universe. The voyager will someday hit something or crash into a planet and our human dna will be on the planet. Someday it will evolve and become like us.

  4. In 1977 I was 16 . My brother in law at the time was working at JPL when the Voyagers were sent .
    They feel like old friends that have been with me for most of my life so I have a sort of sentimental attachment to them

  5. Crazy how ambitious people were back then! Today they couldn't give a shit at all. Still uhming and aghring over mars! Boring! We need to be looking at moving out of our solar system, or harvesting other planets! Not looking to move to our neighbour! That distance won't help us in the future against the problems of the solar system. We need a new solar system that's much newer. If we spread humans about the galaxy, we'll garuentee humans will live on

  6. I am so proud of humanity and what we've achieved, however, when it comes to the size of the cosmos, i envy what future generations will learn and we will never know.On a positive note, we are all very privileged to be part of the nasa generation and look forward to our missions to Mars and anything else we achieve. i believe the greatest trait in our species is CURIOSITY. No pun intended! Great channel by the way x

  7. …1977…the year i married the love of my life…2 Voyagers…and 1st Star Wars movie…uh, directions back to us…not so sure Carl…

  8. By the time Voyager leaves the Oort cloud, we could already be in Proxima Centauri, we could retrieve the voyagers and repower them, then send them farther out into space.

  9. I was especially proud of the Voyager that was 'V'ger' in Star trek the motion picture!!!😂😆😉

  10. And we leave a map to our planet so Aliens can find us easier?? So, I guess we're just suppose believe that Aliens are just so kind hearted pro-life type creatures that are just looking to join us for dinner and hang out.
    These people that are the smartest in the world to build these crafts and advancing technology many years a head of our time. But don't have enough common sense to concider Aliens might be looking to do us harm and their weapons may be even more advanced than ours!!
    What then??
    Mabe they'll leave earth alone if we ask nicely

  11. Fraser Cain, there's occupied space within a Star/SUNLIGHT PHOTONS ENERGY FLOW making possible all traveling motion, and there's empty interstellar space between stars with zero energy to support anything, thus theres no motion.
    Your free flowing mentality of wide open space travel from one point to another across the universe is totally wrong, reason is, there's physical space boundaries, the circumference line of a star ENERGY FLOW abiding by universal laws , where the strong force overrides the weak force, and Voyager as the weak force cannot override the power of the solar system and leave it behind, which if it did would make this the first known broken universal law.

    Note ! All motion depends on MOLICULAR MOTION/ ENERGY FLOW universally.
    Traveling in occupied space here on the orbital plain is made possible by SUNLIGHT PHOTONS ENERGY FLOW, we,re living in occupied space within the Sun strongest area of SUNLIGHT PHOTONS ENERGY FLOW, the orbital plain where nothing ever enters or leaves.
    Using an example of objects falling downward to the earth is exactly how objects/ Voyager would fall back into the solar system.
    Voyager cannot even break out and get off the orbital plain, the ENERGY FLOW is too strong, but that same strong ENERGY FLOW of SUNLIGHT PHOTONS being conserved in real time as a physical act is the giver of all orbital motion's.
    Its impossible for Voyager to brake away and leave the Suns strongest area of SUNLIGHT PHOTONS ENERGY FLOW, the orbital plain !

  12. That's odd, I think this dude has some miss-information … my anus was about 15 when the spacecraft was launched, however, I don't recall sensing it flying past (?). I will give Fraser the benefit of the doubt as I may have been sleeping.

  13. hey there our kind canuck neighbor, not a scientist just a passing interest for me but was curious if you could explain why the voyagers took multiple decades to reach pluto but new horizons took less than one and only used one gravity assist while the voyagers used more? does it have to do with the starting velocity or precision they can steer them to hand around the planets as they pass? thanks, i feel like this is something you know and can explain to laymen! thanks from west seattle

  14. Imagine if there is an advanced civilisation from another solar system that will discover it before this century is out, gives it a new power supply and sends (or brings) it back as a means of 1st contact.

  15. 1977 was a special year. I saw a UFO in 1977 over Brandon, Florida. Solid single round orange light moving slowly almost directly above. It was not blinking like a airplane. A neighbor I had been talking to in a front yard looked up to see what I was looking at. She observed the same slowly moving solid orange object, then in the blink of an eyelash the object shot to the east beyond the horizon at almost light speed. Nothing manmade could do that and no meteor moves slow then accelerates.

  16. What an incredable video. Thank you so much for everything you shared, and really unbelievable images. Amazing how long they have lasted. Perhaps the alien race from Star Trek The Motion Picture really will discover Voyager and send it back to us with unfathomable knowlegde and images.

  17. Question: how voyager decide its path? Who controls it.? And if noone it’s lucky that it didn’t smashed to any space object.

  18. The fact that the Voyagers are still out there and still giving back data to us even from almost 20,000,000,000 kilometres away makes me wonder what is really out there [and why the range of Bluetooth is just below 100 metres ;)].

  19. Explain the principle of working, (in another video) telescope that how is webb so capable of capturing literary just few photons??

  20. Would you really want a 👽 race to find out where we are and if they did what would they say? We been observed your planet for the longest time your warlike, and much to smart for your own good ! Must be a real hassle trying to control your warlike smart being of earth! Why dont you dumb them down? Put fluoride and other drugs in the water supply.. And depopulate the earth there are to many of you for us to land our ships in such a warlike environments.. Now if you depopulate and dumb down your people will show you the secrets of spacetime travail! Once we can land our ships without humans paying us no mind! You know how your people are if they find out we are real the religious nut jobs killing themselves in the hope well give them a ride on our spacecraft! The riots in the streets thinkung you knew about et along time and was just now saying something! The wars that would break out people taking pot shots at us in the hope of starting interplanetary war! So make your population stupid and depopulate the earth and we will land and teach you are secret to interplanetary space travel(: and you know what our world government will do? They depopulate the earth because et told them too

  21. The planetary alignment that allowed the Voyager 2 spacecraft to visit 4 planets in a single flight was very rare. The opportunity only comes around once every 176 years!
    The last time it happened, Thomas Jefferson was president, and he blew it.

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