The still active Voyager 2 spacecraft launched into space 40 years ago

On this date 40 years ago, NASA sent Voyager 2 into space which is where it has remained ever since. 

In fact, both Voyager 1, which was launched a couple of weeks later, and Voyager 2 are still in daily communication with NASA. 

The U.S. space agency reports in a news release that it “takes someone with 1970s design experience” to be able to understand the twin Voyager spacecrafts. 

The twin Voyager spacecrafts are humanity’s furthest-traveled and longest-tenured. Voyager 1 is the only vehicle enter interstellar space, while Voyager 2 is the only to pass Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

PBS and NASA will celebrate 40 years of the spacecrafts’ discoveries with a special documentary, “The Farthest — Voyager in Space,” which will air 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 23. 

The Washington Post reports the two-hour documentary will use behind the scene footage and information in interviewing more than 20 Voyager team members. 

“The special tells captivating tales of one of humanity’s greatest achievements in exploration,” PBS says of the special.

“From supermarket aluminum foil added at the last minute to protect the craft from radiation; to the near disasters at launch; to the emergency maneuvers to fix a crucial frozen instrument platform, viewers get a sense of how difficult–and rewarding–space exploration can be.”

Both spacecrafts are loaded with photos, messages and other documentation of Earth in what could “one day be the only traces of human civilization.” 

The Voyager 1 is nearly 13 billion miles from Earth, and Voyager 2 is at about 11 billion miles out. NASA says that the differing locations is a positive as scientists can compare different regions of space. 

As for what the Voyager spacecrafts have discovered in their 40 years, that includes the first active super volcanoes off of our planet, the most Earth-like atmosphere on a Saturn moon, and the sheer fact that they survived Jupiter’s radiated environment. NASA points to the “foresight” of Voyager designers from the 1970s for its lifespan, as each was well-equipped for Jupiter’s harsh environment. 

“I believe that few missions can ever match the achievements of the Voyager spacecraft during their four decades of exploration,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator, said in a past NASA news release. “They have educated us to the unknown wonders of the universe and truly inspired humanity to continue to explore our solar system and beyond.”

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