WASHINGTON, D.C.: Never before has a human-built spacecraft traveled so far. National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Voyager 1 probe has left the solar system and is wandering the galaxy, United States scientists said on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
The spacecraft, which looks like a combination of a satellite dish and an old television set with rabbit ear antennas, was launched in 1977 on a mission to explore planets in our solar system.
Against all odds, Voyager kept on moving and now is about 12 billion miles from our Sun in a cold, dark part of space that is between the stars, said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist.
“We are indeed in interstellar space for the first time,” said Stone, who is based at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
“We got there. This is something we all hoped when we started on this 40 years ago,” Stone said. “None of us knew anything could last as long as the two Voyager spacecraft.”
The twin spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, were sent off 36 years ago on a primary mission to explore Jupiter and Saturn.
They discovered new details about the nature of Saturn’s rings and found volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io.
Voyager 2 traveled on to Uranus and Neptune, before the duo’s mission was extended to explore the outer limits of the Sun’s influence.
The precise position of Voyager has been fiercely debated in the past year, because scientists have not known exactly what it would look like when the spacecraft crossed the boundary of the solar system—and the tool on board that was meant to detect the change broke long ago.
However, US space agency scientists now agree that Voyager is officially outside the protective bubble known as the heliosphere that extends beyond all the planets in our solar system.
Their findings—which describe the conditions that show Voyager actually left the solar system in August 2012—are published in the US journal Science. AFP