The twin Voyager spacecraft, the first of which began its journey on August 20, 1977, carry the sights and sounds of Earth on gold-plated records. The cover, at top right, shows how to play the phonograph record, as well as information on the origin of the spacecraft. The two probes explored the worlds of the outer solar system, and continue to return to data as they reach the boundary between the Sun's sphere of influence and interstellar space. [NASA/JPL]
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Sometime in the far distant future, the captain of an alien starship may listen to that sound and wonder about its creators. The sound is encoded in gold-plated phonograph records carried by a pair of American spacecraft. The first of them, Voyager 2, was launched 35 years ago today.
Voyager 2 and its twin, Voyager 1, which was launched a couple of weeks later, were designed to explore the outer planets of the solar system. Each of them flew past Jupiter and Saturn, with Voyager 2 continuing to Uranus and Neptune — still the only craft to visit the solar system’s two outermost planets.
Yet the journey isn’t over. Both craft are probing the boundary between the Sun’s realm and interstellar space. They should continue to beam back new findings for perhaps another decade, as they cross that boundary and leave the solar system behind.
After that, they will cruise silently through the interstellar void, occasionally passing within a light-year or so of another star. And just in case they’re ever found, the Voyagers carry information about the civilization that built them — pictures and sounds from planet Earth, including greetings in several languages — greetings from the people who launched two ambitious voyagers.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012