Voyager 35 Years Later
This video drops in on mission control for NASA's Voyager spacecraft as Voyager 1 sends back data from the far reaches of our solar system.
This is the Voyager mission control area. This is where we talk to our spacecraft.
(Engineer speaking over the radio to the Deep Space Network)
Tonight we're going to be getting the data back from a magnetometer roll calibration maneuver and that
maneuver actually happened on the Voyager 1 spacecraft more than 16 hours ago.
But that data is finally making it back to Earth.
What we're doing is a roll about this high gain antenna.
If the high gain antenna here is pointed out toward Earth.
We're going to be rolling the spacecraft along that high gain antenna.
That roll is done so that we can calibrate the instrument so that when we take data we know
what magnetic field belongs to the sun and what component belongs to the actual spacecraft.
Voyager 1 is now 120 times as far from the sun as the Earth is.
That means it's 11 billion miles out and Voyager 2 is 9 billion miles out.
They're very near the edge of the bubble the sun creates around itself called the heliosphere.
We're getting very close to the boundary. We don't know how close because no spacecraft has been there before.
But it could be another few months. It could be another few years,
but it's probably not much longer than that. We travel a billion miles every 3 years.
You can't see the bubble the sun creates around itself because it's invisible.
But we can see an analogy of it in a sink.
If we turn the water on, and look at the bottom of the sink, we see that near where the water hits the
bottom of the sink, it's flowing very fast, radiating outward in all directions.
and getting thinner until it abruptly slows down in this thick region
and turns around and flows down the drain.
the two Voyager spacecraft are both in this thick region in our heliosphere where the wind is slowed down
and turning to go down the tail of the heliosphere and eventually we hope in not too many more years
Voyager 1 will leave this thick region and enter interstellar space.
It's really remarkable. We have a 20 watt transmitter on the spacecraft
transmitting over 11 billion miles away and so it comes in very slowly.
But every bit left that spacecraft over 16 hours ago.
Every bit is telling us something new that we haven't known before.