Voyager – The Grand Mission
Kenny A. Chaffin
All Rights Reserved © 2012 Kenny A. Chaffin
The Voyagers are further from the Sun than any other man-made object. They are the apex of our reach currently tickling the edges of interstellar space and still communicating with controllers on Earth. It is as though we have reached out with a single nerve, a single thread-like finger to touch the face of the mystery which we have searched for from the beginning. Still one must realize that even this grandest of adventures, this furthest push into the abyss we have made is miniscule. The radio signals to and from the Voyager spacecraft take some 17 hours one way. This is nothing! This is less than one light day. The distance to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri is 4.3 light YEARS – and that is still in our neighborhood of our galactic arm of our galaxy, the Milky Way. The next nearest galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy is 2.5 MILLION light years – this is much longer than mankind has existed and not much less than the time life itself has existed on our planet.
Voyagers 1 and 2 were launched in 1977 – before Facebook, before the iPhone, before the Internet, almost before computers (the IBM PC was released in 1981). These incredible machines are still chugging along; still beaming back data acquired by their sensors and are expected to continue working for another 20 years (until their power units stop producing electricity). The last images/photos taken by them came in 1990 from Voyager 1 and those were the “Family Portrait” images of Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Venus and Earth which Carl Sagan (part of the imaging team) had tirelessly lobbied for. This was also the famous “Pale Blue Dot” photo of Earth he used in his Cosmos series accompanied by his words which to me are some of the most inspirational words ever spoken about mankind and our place in the cosmos.
This month (December 2012) we have learned something new. The data sent from Voyager 1 indicates that it has entered a region of space we did not know of and did not expect or predict. It is currently 11 billion miles from Earth at the edge of the solar system (the Heliosphere) and about to enter interstellar space. Scientists had expected to see changes in the magnetic field from the sun and the behavior of the charged particles of the solar wind, but they did not expect a ‘pathway’ which they are calling a magnetic highway and that directs and channels highly energetic extra-solar particles from distant supernovas and other celestial events into the solar heliosphere as well as guiding the less energetic solar wind into interstellar space. Astrophysicists will be analyzing and theorizing on this for some time in order to explain and understand it. And who knows what else our young Voyagers will discover in their coming decades.
This then is who we are, this is the pinnacle, this is what we have done, where we are, the extent of our reach. This is mankind.
About the Author
Kenny A. Chaffin writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction and has published poems and fiction in Vision Magazine, The Bay Review, Caney River Reader, WritersHood, Star*Line, MiPo, Melange and Ad Astra and has published nonfiction in The Writer, The Electron, Writers Journal and Today’s Family. He grew up in southern Oklahoma and now lives in Denver, CO where he works hard to make enough of a living to support two cats, numerous wild birds and a bevy of squirrels. His poetry collections No Longer Dressed in Black and The Poet of Utah Park and his collection of science essays How do we Know are available at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B007S3SMY8. He may be contacted through his website at http://www.kacweb.com.