NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft departed Earth over 45 years ago on a mission to the outer planets and beyond. Even now, the adventure is still going on. On August 20, 1977, Voyager 2, the first of two spacecraft involved in the mission, was launched. It took use of a unique planetary alignment to use one planet’s gravity to drive itself to another. Voyager 2 continued the Voyager mission’s exploration of Uranus and Neptune, whereas the original Voyager mission was limited to Jupiter and Saturn. On September 5 of the same year, Voyager 1 was launched into space.
The two spacecraft are equipped with cutting-edge tools for the in-depth study of distant worlds. Both of them are still sending data as they leave the solar system and enter interstellar space.
When mission designers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory realised that the next alignment of the outer planets, a rare occurrence that only happens once every 175 years, would take place in the late 1970s, they began planning the Voyager mission. Technology at the time allowed for the utilisation of this alignment to send a spacecraft via Jupiter, utilise Saturn’s gravity to visit Saturn and then repeat the process to send another spacecraft by Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
The first spacecraft to leave the earth, Voyager 2, was launched from Launch Complex 21 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (formerly the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station) in Florida on a Titan IIIE-Centaur rocket. Despite the fact that Voyager 1 was launched two weeks later, it reached Jupiter four months earlier than Voyager 2 thanks to a quicker trajectory.
NASA engineers began preparing more than 45 years ago for the potential that an extraterrestrial civilization could discover the spacecraft. Similar to Voyager 1, Voyager 2 is equipped with a gold-plated record that holds data about Earth as well as recordings of sounds, music, and greetings in 55 different languages. The record’s playback instructions were also added by the engineers.
(with inputs from agencies)