Voyager 1 takes 1st photos of Earth and moon, September 18, 1977
The spacecraft launched from Earth on September 5, 1977, two weeks after its twin craft Voyager 2, on what was expected to be a five-year mission. Still traveling space more than 35 years later, it receives routine commands and transmits data back to the Deep Space Network.
On September 12, 2013 NASA confirmed that Voyager 1 is the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space. Information from the craft's plasma wave instrument indicated it reached interstellar space in August 2012.
The craft’s radio communication system was designed to be used up to and beyond the limits of the solar system. The communication system includes a 3.7-meter diameter parabolic dish high-gain antenna to send and receive radio waves via the three Deep Space Network stations on the Earth.
Voyager 1 has had quite the career as a photographer. In addition to providing the first ever photos of the Earth and moon together, Voyager 1 took the first ever "family portrait" of our Solar System as seen from outside, which includes the famous image known as "Pale Blue Dot." And its photos of Jupiter and Saturn provided never-before seen views of the planets.
Like its sister craft, Voyager 1 tweets to communicate its travels with the masses. Get updates by following @NASAVoyager on Twitter.
When Voyager 1 is unable to communicate directly with the Earth (and presumably tweet), its digital tape recorder can record up to 62,500 kilobytes of data for transmission at another time.
Voyager 1’s power comes from its three large radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG), each of which contains 24 pressed plutonium-238 oxide spheres. The heat from the spheres generated about 157 watts of electric power at the launch, with a total of about 470 watts of electric power provided by the three RTGs. The power output of the RTGs does decline over time.
The probe may well continue to make discoveries for many years to come, but somewhere around 2025, it will no longer be able to power its instruments. Several instruments will shut down before then, including the digital tape recorder, expected to end its use in 2015.
Should Voyager 1 ever encounter intelligent life in its travels, it carries a gold-plated audio-visual disc describing life on Earth, as do all probes in the Voyager program.
- Voyager 2 launches, August 20, 1977
- NASA’s Deep Space Network
- Voyager 1 makes closest approach to Jupiter, March 5 1979
- The rover's energy
- Voyager: The mathematics of interstellar space travel
- NASA: Revealing the unknown to benefit all humankind
- What NASA moment is most inspiring to you?
For more moments in tech history, see this blog. EDN strives to be historically accurate with these postings. Should you see an error, please notify us.
Editor's note: This article was originally posted on September 18, 2012 and edited on September 18, 2016.