Sunday, August 20 marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 2. Tuesday, September 5, will be the 40th anniversary for Voyager 1. Round anniversaries like these have no special significance for spacecraft that have departed Earth's orbit; the significance is for those of us that the spaceships left behind on a planet that still revolves around the Sun once a year. Anniversaries are a good time to look back and consider our past. Throughout the next three weeks, we'll be posting new and classic material in honor of the Voyagers. Here's a preview of that material; I'll update this post with links as it's published.
It begins with yesterday's Planetary Radio show, in which Mat Kaplan interviews Ed Stone -- Voyager's one and only mission project scientist since launch -- on what Voyager has done, and what the mission is still doing.
The Planetary Society was forming at the time of the Voyager launches, and marks its first year, 1980, as the one in between the Voyager encounters of Jupiter and Saturn. Next week, look forward to a walk through The Planetary Society's first ten years, intertwined with the Voyager planetary encounters, as seen through the lens of our member magazine, The Planetary Report. In the era before widespread use of the Internet, receiving our magazine was the first moment that many space fans saw some of the awesome images from the encounters. We'll post six full issues of The Planetary Report, containing scientists' first impressions of the data returned from the four giant planets.
The images, of course, are what excited the public most about these missions. I've requested three posts from image processing enthusiasts, containing some of the best photos and movies from the Voyagers, both old and new material. Ted Stryk will share some of his work on outer planet moons; Ian Regan has some exciting new videos from Jupiter; and Bjorn Jonsson has produced some new images and movies of all the planets.
Finally, we'll hear from some of the scientists who were involved with the missions during the planetary encounters, including late Planetary Society founder Carl Sagan. And on the day of the Voyager 1 launch anniversary, September 5, you can tune in to Facebook Live for a conversation between me and Planetary Society founder Lou Friedman about the Voyager missions and the Planetary Society. Stay tuned for further details about that.
Incredibly, it's possible that these spacecraft may last to the next big decadal anniversary, the 50th, in 2027. As Ed Stone explains in yesterday's Planetary Radio, the power sources decline in output by 4 watts per year. They are conserving power by shutting off instruments and components as needed to keep the spacecraft's main computer and transmitter operating, and Stone estimated that by doing so they could keep the spacecraft alive until 2030.
Because The Planetary Society has been covering Voyager for so long, there's a lot of background material on our website already on the accomplishments and status of the Voyager missions.
- Images from the Voyager missions
- Blog posts about the Voyagers
- Planetary Radio shows about the Voyagers
- The Pale Blue Dot
- The Voyager Mission Status Bulletins (scanned newsletters from JPL sent throughout the planetary encounter period)
- Voyager Launch press kit (PDF)
Finally, here are some interesting items from NASA's technical archives:
- Press release, Sep 6 1978: Voyager leaves asteroid belt
- Press kit, Feb 22 1979: Voyagers 1 and 2 backgrounder
- Press kit, Feb 22 1979: Voyager 1 Jupiter encounter
- Mission operation report, Mar 5, 1979: Voyager Program Voyager 1 encounter at Jupiter
- NASA CR-162721, Mar 1979: Voyager 1 encounter with Jupiter
- Press briefing transcript, May 30, 1979: Voyager 2 Jupiter encounter
- Press kit, Jun 26 1979: Voyager 2 Jupiter encounter
- NASA CR-163607, Jul 1979: Voyager encounters Jupiter
- Press release, Oct 16 1979: Voyager pictures reveal new moon of Jupiter
- Press kit, Sep 1980: Voyager 1 Saturn encounter summary of events
- Press kit, Oct 1980: Voyager backgrounder
- Press kit, Oct 28, 1980: Voyager 1 encounter with Saturn
- Press briefing transcript, Oct 28, 1980: Voyager Saturn encounter
- Press release, Dec 19 1980: Voyager encounters Saturn: Scientific highlights
- Press release, Mar 30 1981: Preliminary science results of Voyager 1 Saturn encounter
- Press release, Jul 29 1981: Voyager 2 to make closest encounter with Saturn in August
- Press kit, Aug 1981: Voyager backgrounder
- Press kit, Aug 13 1981: Voyager 2 encounter with Saturn
- NASA EP-191, Jul 1982: Voyager flights to Jupiter and Saturn
- NASA CR-174571, Aug 1 1983: Telecommunications and data acquisition systems support for Voyager missions to Jupiter and Saturn, 1972-1981
- NASA SP-474, Jan 1984: Voyager 1 and 2 atlas of six Saturnian satellites
- JPL D-2580, Aug 15 1985: The Voyager Uranus travel guide
- NASA CR-176706, Jan 1986: Voyager at Uranus: 1986
- NASA video, Jun 1986: Voyager encounters Uranus
- NASA CR-185317, Jan 1989: Voyager at Neptune: 1989
- NASA CR-186108, Jun 1989: The Voyager Neptune travel guide
- NASA video, Jun 1989: Voyager encounter highlights tape
- NASA video, Aug 1989: Voyager 2: Neptune encounter
- NASA video, Sep 1989: Voyager last picture show
- JPL video, Aug 22 1990: And then there was Voyager
- NASA CR-197708, Apr 1991: Voyager: The grandest tour
- News from 1998 to present: JPL Voyager Interstellar Mission website