September 5th, 2012 marks the 35th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 1 which is now the most distant human-made object and the second longest operating spacecraft.
The mission of the Voyager spacecraft both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, was to explore Jupiter and Saturn. After major success, the mission was extended to have Voyager 2 explore Uranus and Neptune. Currently the only data we have from Uranus and Neptune came from Voyager, no other spacecraft have since explored these two planets.
Today, 35 years later these two spacecraft are still functioning and sending back information to Earth from billions of miles away, much farther away from the sun than Neptune and Pluto. The mission of both spacecraft today is to explore interstellar space and has been named the Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM) .
The VIM has three phases, termination shock, heliosheath exploration, and interstellar exploration. The spacecraft were in an area that was primarily controlled by the suns magnetic field and surrounded by supersonic solar wind, this is the termination shock phase. The spacecraft are now in the heliosheath phase, the outer reaches of the suns solar winds and magnetic influence. Soon the spacecraft will begin to move into an area where interstellar winds become more prominent and push back and slow our suns solar winds to a sub-sonic speed, eventually there will be no influence and the spacecraft will then be considered to be in interstellar space. The point where deep space begins and our suns influence ends is called heliopause, reaching heliopause is the ultimate mission of Voyager and the spacecraft should have enough power and fuel to last until approximately 2025, which should allow for enough time to reach this disatance.
Voyager also contains a 12 inch gold plated copper disk that contains sounds and images from Earth. The sounds are of wind, thunder,birds and other animals. Human speech from different parts of the world and pictures form different cultures are also included on the disk. For a complete list of the disc contents including samples, head here.
For complete details on VIM click here.