Planetary Radio • Aug 31, 2022
The Voyager Mission: A 45th Anniversary Celebration
On This Episode
Executive Producer of Cosmos: Possible Worlds, and author of the companion book
Voyager Mission Project Scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Jet Propulsion Lab Director and Planetary Scientist
Heliophysics Division Director in the Science Mission Directorate for NASA
Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society
Senior Communications Adviser and former Host of Planetary Radio for The Planetary Society
Additional guests include:
- Suzanne Dodd, Voyager Project Manager and Director for the Interplanetary Network Directorate at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- Linda Morabito, Astronomer and discoverer of volcanism on Jupiter's moon Io
Join us at the Jet Propulsion Lab for the celebration of the two Voyager spacecrafts’ 45-year journey across the Solar System and beyond. Stick around for a stimulating conversation with Ann Druyan, creative director for the Golden Record carried by the probes. The Voyager theme continues in this week’s What’s Up space trivia contest.
The best space pictures from the Voyager missions NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 missions Launched in 1977 and provided an unprecedented glimpse into the outer solar system — a liminal space once left largely to the imagination. The spacecraft provided views of worlds we’d never seen before, and in some cases, haven’t seen much of since.
- The Voyager Missions
- Voyager Mission Status
- The Voyager Golden Record
- “The Footsteps of Voyager” Part of the documentary series “JPL and the Space Age”
- Cosmos Studios
- The Downlink
- Subscribe to the monthly Planetary Radio newsletter
This Week’s Question:
How many JPL directors have there been since the Voyagers launched? Include acting directors.
This Week’s Prize:
A copy of “Voyager: Photographs from Humanity’s Greatest Journey” by Jens Bezemer and Joel Meter, published by teNeues, AND a Voyager Neptune encounter medallion from The Planetary Society!
To submit your answer:
Complete the contest entry form at https://www.planetary.org/radiocontest or write to us at [email protected] no later than Wednesday, September 7 at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.
Last week's question:
As currently planned, on the first four missions or flights of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, how many of the main or core stage engines have already flown?
The winner will be revealed next week.
Question from the August 17, 2022 space trivia contest:
What Planetary Society spaceflight project had a penguin as part of its logo? Hint: It was something designed to fly in space but was not itself a spacecraft.
The Planetary Society spaceflight project with a penguin as part of its logo was the original Mars Microphone that flew on the Mars Polar Lander. MPL was lost as it descended to Mars in 1999.
Mat Kaplan: A party for Voyager's 45th this week on Planetary Radio.
Mat Kaplan: Welcome. I'm Mat Kaplan of The Planetary Society with more of the human adventure across our solar system and beyond. Join me at the Jet Propulsion Lab for a celebration of what is almost certainly the most popular planetary science mission of all time. And stick around for another very special conversation with the person who served as creative director for the Voyager Golden Record. The great Ann Druyan.
Mat Kaplan: We'll wrap up today's bonus length episode with WhatsApp, and the very cool Voyager prizes Bruce Betts and I will make available to the winner of a new space trivia contest.
Mat Kaplan: As this episode of our show is published, I may or may not still be on Florida's space coast. It all depends on whether that mighty new rocket, the space launch system or SLS, launched during its first two hour window on the morning of August 29th.
Mat Kaplan: I sure hope so, but I'm producing this show a couple of days before the 29th, so that I can jump on a plane to the Kennedy Space Center. A very knowledgeable former NASA friend gives the Artemis 1 mission of 40% chance of liftoff during the first opportunity, which sounds about right. I'll stick around for the second attempt on Friday, September 2nd, if needed.
Mat Kaplan: Check out the August 26th edition of The Downlink, The Planetary Society's free weekly newsletter for links to our great coverage.
Mat Kaplan: Speaking of getting the first woman and the next man to the moon, as NASA likes to say, the US space agency has selected 13 possible landing sites for Artemis 3. All are in the south polar region of our trustee natural satellite, the region with those permanently shadowed areas with lots of water ice. The final decision is still many months away.
Mat Kaplan: Many of you have probably seen the jaw dropping new infrared images of Jupiter delivered by the JWST. If not, you can check them out at planetary.org/downlink. I was not surprised to read the JWST scientists are surprised and thrilled by the performance of their new space telescope.
Mat Kaplan: There's more to this story and it includes the work of citizen scientist and image processor extraordinaire, Judy Schmidt, Judy will join us here on Planetary Radio soon.
Mat Kaplan: Voyager 2 lifted off from Florida on August 20th, 1977. It's sister craft Voyager 1 followed on September 5. Scientists and engineers hoped they'd last at least five years. They've now been exploring and reporting their findings for nine times that span.
Mat Kaplan: Both are now deemed to have reached interstellar space where most of the influence of our star ends, and the forces of the vast Milky Way Galaxy take over. Ahead is the Oort Cloud of comets that reach halfway to the next nearest star.
Mat Kaplan: The Voyagers are unlikely to still be alive by then, but they will go on across the void for perhaps billions of years. Each carries greetings, messages of hope, pictures and sounds from across our life filled planet and the best playlist ever created, in my humble opinion.
Mat Kaplan: And all this is after they reveal the world's of our outer solar system, as never before. Teaching us again, that our neighborhood is full of surprises.
Mat Kaplan: It was several months ago that I first heard from Linda Spilker and Suzanne Dodd about their plans for a party. I'm so glad to have been invited. Linda has returned as deputy project scientist for Voyager, even as she continues as project scientist for Cassini. And Suzanne is the latest in a distinguished roster of project managers on the Voyager mission.
Mat Kaplan: Their party took place in the Jet Propulsion Labs of von Karman auditorium, right where people have gathered over and over to hear the announcements of Voyagers' discoveries for 45 years.
Mat Kaplan: Linda and Suzanne took turns as onstage MCs, welcoming current Lab staff, interns born well after the Neptune encounter, media folks like me, and with great honor, members of the mission team who go back a half century. None were as honored or celebrated as Ed Stone. The only project scientist Voyager has ever had. Ed's health prevented him from presenting, but he enjoyed being greeted by hundreds of attendees, young and old.
Mat Kaplan: Here's part of Suzanne's tribute from the von Karman stage.
Suzanne Dodd: Ed's been on the project for 50 years as a project scientist and that almost deserves, I think, a standing ovation.
Mat Kaplan: Many of you remember that we talked with new JPL director, Laurie Leshin, on our July 27 episode. Laurie took the stage to add her kudos for Voyager and its team.
Laurie Leshin: Huge congratulations to this team. So many of you who have been with this project over many years and all of us who stand in awe of it are thrilled to be here to celebrate you, and that incredible, those two incredible spacecraft today.
Laurie Leshin: So I'm thrilled to have two of my predecessors here whose shoulders I stand on, and this Lab would not be where it is today without them, Ed and Charles. So thank you to you both, yes.
Laurie Leshin: But really this whole field, our whole discipline of planetary scientists of which I count myself as one, would not be here without this mission. I think Voyager and Viking really are the foundation upon which all of modern planetary science has been built. And yes, there are other missions and we can argue about whether the earlier mariners and the flybys should get that credit and they probably should get some.
Laurie Leshin: But those two missions, and especially Voyager as we look to the outer solar system now, really becoming front and center in so many of our future plans to explore. It's all about the foundation that Voyager laid. 45 years is an extraordinary accomplishment, but the foundation it laid and the legacy it leaves will live forever.
Laurie Leshin: This mission will go on forever because it will always be leading to that next level of exploration. And I've been talking a lot these days. People at headquarters are probably getting tired of me talking to them about the fact that I think we need to be thinking much more strategically about exploration of the outer solar system more collectively.
Laurie Leshin: How to get there more frequently than once in a generation? How to make sure it's accessible because of the worlds, the worlds that Voyager revealed to us are so extraordinarily interesting that we just have a very long to-do list in the outer solar system.
Laurie Leshin: And so I'm so grateful to get to be here at a moment when we are really working to build upon the extraordinary legacy of Voyager. I just hope that you all know that the legacy that you have set is safe with us, and we are really, truly committed to carrying forward and building upon this inspirational mission that you have given us.
Laurie Leshin: And not just with what follows onto it, but with these missions themselves. They're still going, right? It's like 50 years, let's go. Let's already planning. So the party, we're already planning the party for the 50 years.
Laurie Leshin: As Carl said, "Someday humanity will venture beyond the solar system, will venture to the stars and we won't be the first ones there." This craft is the first one. There can only ever be one first, and that really is you.
Laurie Leshin: So I'm just incredibly inspired to be able to just be in the same room with so many of you who have carried this mission forward and especially Ed to you. Thank you for the science and for the incredible discoveries. And for 50 years of commitment, because you've been at it for 50 years with this mission. We will carry that legacy forward.
Mat Kaplan: We were also treated to the outstanding second episode of a new documentary series by Blaine Baggett about the history of JPL. It featured Voyager's encounters with Uranus and Neptune and took us into the Voyager interstellar mission that continues today. You'll hear excerpts from it during my conversation with Ann Druyan in a few minutes.
Mat Kaplan: The party continued long after the formal program ended with the full size mock-up of a Voyager spacecraft as the backdrop, I ran into Linda Morabito.
Mat Kaplan: Linda, delighted to run into a former Planetary Society colleague, a treasured colleague, but also we just watched this second episode, the Encounters of Voyager with Uranus and Neptune and Beyond. You must have been in the first episode because of your discovery, remind us.
Linda Morabito: A long time ago in the galaxy far, far away, I was working on the Voyager navigation mission, and completely successful encounter. One of the most exciting times of our lives to see a Jupiter up close, its moons. It was an amazing time and to be responsible for, no pressure, but the successful navigation of the whole team that I was on the Voyagers to Jupiter. And it was a very, very thrilling, wonderful time.
Linda Morabito: But after it was all, the excitement had subsided on March 9th of 1979, after the March 5th encounter, I was looking at the post encounter planet pictures that had been taken for satellite ephemeris development, which of course was the refining the orbits of these moons that we had seen only previously from a great distance.
Linda Morabito: And in doing that, in processing a picture, I was able to see something that it turns out no one had seen before.
Mat Kaplan: And that was what now I was so justifiably famous for, the very first of its volcanoes that you picked out of an image.
Linda Morabito: Absolutely. It looked almost like another moon peeking out from behind Io. And we really had to use the scientific method to consider every possibility of what that crescent was, anomalous crescent. And it was in fact rising about 170 kilometers over the surface of Io, a volcanic plume. And just by the phase angle, the lighting, we were able to see simply a crescent event. One of the most thrilling moments of my life.
Linda Morabito: And I cannot even imagine how any scientists could have any more wonderful thing happen to them than those first moments of seeing that.
Mat Kaplan: Outstanding moment in the history, of the 45 year history of this mission, if you don't count what happened before launch. But also representative of so many other great discoveries.
Linda Morabito: Incredible. You've got four giant worlds and we rewrote the textbooks. The Voyager scientists, the engineers took us to these worlds and showed us that they are alive, that the moons represent phenomenon that we could never even have dreamed about or imagined. One discovery after the next. One incredible mission now representing all of humanity in interstellar space.
Mat Kaplan: 50 years at JPL?
Linda Morabito: Yeah, 50 years.
Mat Kaplan: Congratulations Linda. It's wonderful to see you.
Linda Morabito: Thank you. What a pleasure. Thanks so much.
Mat Kaplan: And joining the party with big smiles on their faces were at least two JPL interns.
Amelia: I'm Amelia Abenny Fernández. And I study at Stanford University.
Abby: I'm Abby and I study at the University of Cambridge and I'm an intern here at JPL.
Mat Kaplan: How is it? Did you just find out about this little celebration and decided to come by?
Abby: There was an email a week ago and I thought I'd pop by. I didn't expect it to be as amazing as it was.
Amelia: Yeah. I just cannot believe. I was not sure if I would be able to come in because I was a little late, but then when I came in, I was totally stunned to see the audience and to see the people who actually worked on Voyager, sitting over there in the same room where I was sitting. Yeah. I was totally stunned.
Mat Kaplan: So let me make a wild guess. I bet neither one of you was born when Voyager did most of the work that it's famous for. Of course, it's still doing that work. Am I right?
Amelia: Yes, exactly.
Abby: Yeah. So I grew up seeing the pictures that Voyager put out, and it was kind of... It's mind blowing to know that the people who made those pictures are sitting in the same room as me talking, to me as well.
Mat Kaplan: Do those pictures, did that data and just the mission itself, did it, do you think have some influence over your decision to go in the direction that you've gone? I mean the reason your interns here now?
Amelia: Yes, it did have a lot of influence on me because I think that's how it started with me wanting to always work for NASA some day. I'm an international student. I came to the US to study aerospace, but I never knew that trajectory to turn out would be this amazing, that I would one day get to work for JPL as an intern. I am totally stunned.
Amelia: I'm so happy with the way things are turned out for me today.
Abby: Yeah. When I was little, I would always look at these pictures of Neptune and Jupiter and be so excited about even seeing pictures of Voyager as well. And that's kind of what inspired me. Kind of sparked what I wanted to do and now I'm here and it's better than I could have ever imagined.
Mat Kaplan: Well, what are you doing now in your internships and what do you hope to be doing as you head on into your career?
Amelia: So at the moment I'm working on an antennas, because that's actually my field of depth and area that I would like to do research on. And I'm trying to see how it can help in deep space exploration basically.
Abby: I'm currently working on uncertainty analysis for Mars sample return, and future Landers as well. And honestly, that's kind of exactly the sort of stuff I want to be doing in the future. So it's perfect.
Mat Kaplan: Have a wonderful rest of your summer internship here at JPL. And I bet you will always remember coming to this little party for Voyager.
Amelia: Yes, definitely. I am always going to remember this.
Abby: Having all four of the last four directors in the room was amazing.
Mat Kaplan: Best of success.
Amelia: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Mat Kaplan: Nicola or Nicki Fox heads the heliophysics division of NASA's science mission directorate. We last heard from her in our January 12th, 2022 show, when we talked about the Parker solar probe.
Mat Kaplan: Pretty nice party. Glad you made it out?
Nicola Fox: I am totally delighted to be here. It was a last minute decision. Flew in last night and I'm getting on a plane in a couple of hours, but it totally was worth it to just be here with the team, celebrate this incredible mission. And of course celebrate the just magic that is Ed Stone, the lead scientist for this mission for 50 years.
Nicola Fox: And so it was just so great to see him and just celebrate everything together.
Mat Kaplan: I feel exactly the same. I'm so honored that I was even able to say hello to him again today. So here's a mission that went from planetary science to your bailiwick, heliophysics. You must be pretty proud to have this as part of your portfolio.
Nicola Fox: I am really proud of Voyager. And it isn't just because it's an inspirational mission and it's all the things that we could talk about, all the firsts that they've had. But it actually opened up a new area of science for us. Taking pictures of the planets, studying all the planets, absolutely fabulous. For us actually going out into interstellar space, leaving the environment that our sun controls and going out into that. You think of it as the cold, cold interstellar space of where that spacecraft is.
Nicola Fox: And just when you think about how far away those spacecraft are, the light speed, the round trip light speed, 43 hours. I mean that's out there. That's really out there.
Mat Kaplan: Did you see me talking to those two young people, both JPL interns? Both born well after most of the big events happened in this mission, and yet they say that they are partly here as interns and going in the direction they are because of this mission.
Nicola Fox: I can believe it. It is an inspirational mission. It's almost like a mission that reinvented itself all the time. You know, you fly past one planetary body. You take groundbreaking firsts and then when you do you go to another one, and then you go to another one. And then you think, "Oh, you know what? I'll leave the solar system."
Nicola Fox: I mean, it's just this inspirational mission. It just keeps giving and giving and giving.
Mat Kaplan: Just one more question, because you mentioned it on stage and I've been reading a little bit lately about how we might someday return to interstellar space with a dedicated mission. One really designed for that. Could you talk about that?
Nicola Fox: Yes, certainly we have a lot of really exciting mission concepts that are being discussed. Right now, we are actually kicking off our decadal survey for heliophysics. And so what are the next things we're going to do in the next decades to come? And certainly an interstellar probe, a mission that is actually designed to go straight out of the heliosphere and study that environment out there with dedicated instruments for that is really high up on, I think on the community's priority list.
Nicola Fox: Along with other great missions too, but interstellar probe, definitely a big candidate there.
Mat Kaplan: Thank you, Nicki. Great to see you again. I'm glad you could make it to the party.
Nicola Fox: Thank you so much.
Mat Kaplan: With the party mostly, over Suzanne Dodds and Linda Spilker joined me in the small museum next to von Karman Auditorium. Hell of a party two. When did we start to talk about this? You told me months ago right, Linda?
Linda Spilker: Right. We knew the 45th anniversary was coming up several months ago. And so we started to plan an event at first low key, show a movie, have the Voyager family from JPL there and it suddenly it just started to blossom and bloom and inviting retirees. And the event really grew.
Mat Kaplan: And you had cake, which you had promised at the very beginning.
Suzanne Dodd: Yes, we had cake and I got to choose the flavors of the cake. So that at least I had some say. It was a great event and it's great to have retirees come. It's great to mingle with current employees. And I think everybody that was in the room is touched by Voyager, whether they had spent two years on it, 20 years on it, or even just if they're an intern and Voyager was what got them interested in space.
Mat Kaplan: We were just talking about some of those old timers, those Voyager veterans. I mean I saw Charlie Cole Hayes, got to say hi. It really is wonderful to see this group come together again. And it was especially gratifying to see Ed Stone, that he was able to attend and enjoy this even if he wasn't able to speak.
Linda Spilker: It was great to have Ed here and to recognize him for his 50 years as project scientist for Voyager and really he's sort of the heart and soul of Voyager, keeping the scientists on track and making sure that we got out to the heliopause. That's really a credit to Ed.
Mat Kaplan: Suzanne, they showed the second episode in this sort of JPL history series that your colleague Blaine Baggett has done. And this was largely not entirely, Voyager at Uranus Neptune and beyond. Let me just thank you because there you were doing some kind of, anchoring some video coverage for one of those encounters. Thank you for not staying in my business because I don't need the competition.
Suzanne Dodd: Yes. I don't think I was very good back then. That was probably my first experience on live television. My public speaking is better now. It was certainly enjoyable and a little nerve-wracking, but the Neptune encounter was great. I feel like it was a highlight of my early career for sure.
Mat Kaplan: Is that about when you came onboard, became part of the mission?
Suzanne Dodd: I started in before the Uranus encounter. So I worked on Uranus with the science team, helping design their observations. And then for Neptune, I moved over to what's called the sequencing team, which is really the group of people that put together the sequences, the command strings that are going to get sent to the spacecraft. And you do your best. You check it, triple check it, quadruple check it, cross your fingers. It gets sent to the spacecraft and whoa, are you glued to your screen to see if the correct images come down and things are pointed in the right direction.
Suzanne Dodd: And it was just very gratifying to see it all work at Neptune.
Mat Kaplan: Thank goodness all those zeros and ones were in the right place.
Suzanne Dodd: Correct.
Mat Kaplan: Linda, we've talked about this before, but remind me, you came into this mission much earlier.
Linda Spilker: I actually came in 1977, straight out of college, my first real job. And actually got here in time to go to the launch of Voyager 2, there was a science steering group meeting at the Cape and they invited all of us newcomers to come with them and be part of that launch. And it was so exciting. And I think about it. I don't think I could have imagined being here 45 years later with two working spacecraft now exploring interstellar space. It wasn't in the timeline.
Mat Kaplan: So what's happening? What are we continuing to discover out there in the interstellar void?
Linda Spilker: Well, the discoveries are quite interesting, Mat, because it's not what we expected. We had these ideas just from looking from the inside out. And now that Voyager is actually on the outside making measurements, for instance, it seems like the magnetic field from the sun is controlling far out past the heliopause and we haven't rotated the magnetic field yet into the direction of the interstellar magnetic field.
Linda Spilker: We can measure the actual cosmic ray density for the first time because the heliopause is an excellent shield from those high energy cosmic rays, that radiation. And so it shields quite a lot of them out and now we can measure them directly.
Linda Spilker: Also, there are shocks that come from the sun, propagate out into the interstellar medium and Voyager sees these shocks in the magnetic field data, in the plasma wave data. And it's so exciting to see that interstellar space isn't boring. There's a lot to see out there. It's kind of like being in a turbulent sea in a sense, and trying to sense the eddies and currents of interstellar space.
Mat Kaplan: Suzanne, how are those two old timers doing?
Suzanne Dodd: Well, they're hanging in there. They are old timers. You may have heard recently we had a little hiccup with Voyager 1, although it looks like we can get over that. We may need to operate the spacecraft slightly differently going forward, but that's what you do with any mission. Once you launch it, you can't go to it and fix it. In Voyager's case, it's a little bit of the extreme since it's 15 billion miles from us, and it's 1975 technology. But we can make changes to flight software and we can sort of work around issues that there might be with command streams and things like that.
Suzanne Dodd: So that's, we're really digging into the problem now, but I think we'll be able to work around it.
Mat Kaplan: I've asked this question of Linda and others many times, but how much longer do we think we have, assuming everything continues to work, but those watts continue to fall as that RTG cools off.
Suzanne Dodd: We lose four watts of power a year. And so we've over time, we've been turning off different subsystems and we just finished turning off all the instrument heaters, the instruments are miraculously are still working. They're at temperatures that they weren't designed for, weren't tested for, but yet they work. And all the data that's coming back is still great data. So again, Voyager is a really incredibly remarkable spacecraft from a longevity standpoint.
Suzanne Dodd: But looking forward, I would say we have a stretch goal of getting out to 200 AU. As a manager, I say, that's my stretch goal. That's where I want to get. And that's 15 more years. I definitely think there'll be a 50th anniversary party and likely with two spacecraft still operating. When we start to get to 2030, it might be a little more iffy, but every bit of data that Voyager takes now because it's in situ, it's interstellar space is important. It's unique and it's important.
Suzanne Dodd: And using in situ data with other spacecraft that are looking at the heliosphere remotely, from like our earth's orbit, you put that all together and you get a much better model of what's going on in our heliosphere.
Mat Kaplan: And still returning first, yes.
Suzanne Dodd: Voyager is definitely the pathfinder. And if you think about it, the two Voyagers are now our first interstellar travelers collecting data in a place nothing has flown before and revealing new discoveries. And I'm sure there's more to come.
Mat Kaplan: Thank you both. Once again, great party. So glad that I could join you and I'll see you for the 50th.
Suzanne Dodd: Excellent. Thank you so, Mat.
Linda Spilker: Yes, definitely. See you for the 50th.
Mat Kaplan: The party's over, but the celebration continues in a minute with Ann Druyan. You'll want to stick around for this wonderful conversation.
George Takei: Hello, I'm George Takei. And as you know, I'm very proud of my association with Star Trek. Star Trek was a show that looked to the future with optimism, boldly going where no one had gone before.
George Takei: I want you to know about a very special organization called The Planetary Society. They are working to make the future that Star Trek represents a reality. When you become a member of The Planetary Society, you join their mission to increase discoveries in our solar system to elevate the search for life outside our planet and decrease the risk of earth being hit by an asteroid. Co-founded by Carl Sagan and led today by CEO, Bill Nye, The Planetary Society exists for those who believe in space exploration to take action together.
George Takei: So join The Planetary Society and boldly go together to build our future.
Mat Kaplan: Welcome back. Ann Druyan is the Emmy and Peabody award winning creator, executive producer, writer, and director of the second and third seasons of Cosmos. She's also the founder of Cosmos Studios in Ithaca, New York. 45 years ago she served as creative director for the Voyager interstellar message project. The result was the Golden Records that are now headed across the cosmos.
Mat Kaplan: She partnered with Carl Sagan in life and in the creation of many of their best known and most affecting books and other works, including Contact. So I had many reasons to invite her back to Planetary Radio this week. We talked online a few days ago. You'll hear clips from that terrific new JPL documentary here and there.
Ann Druyan: Mat, it's always great to be with you. I look forward to our conversations.
Mat Kaplan: As do I. It has never been less than both thrilling and delightful. So thank you so much, Ann.
Ann Druyan: My pleasure, completely.
Mat Kaplan: 45 years across the solar system and beyond, as of August 23rd, the day before we're speaking, Voyager 1 is nearly 15 billion miles from earth, which is about 157 astronomical units traveling at just over 38,000 miles per hour. And though it takes nearly 22 hours for its data to reach us at the speed of light. This old robot is still phoning home to tell us now about interstellar space. Could you be more thrilled?
Ann Druyan: I could not be more thrilled, more proud to have had any relationship to what I consider one of the most significant missions in the history of our species. And what a great metric that is of the vastness that traveling at let's say, I'm going to use miles, but let's say at 38,000 miles per hour for 45 years, and yet it's not even a single light day from earth. Does that tell you just how big the cosmos is? And how impressive at the same time, two spacecraft built only 20 years after Sputnik, only 20 years after a simple aluminum bowling ball was the most ambitious and exciting thing we had ever launched into the cosmos.
Ann Druyan: And a mere 20 years later, two interstellar craft built with the technology of the mid 1970s, and yet still teaching us so much about our neighborhood. I just can't get over the genius of the engineers, the scientists, the technicians who built the Voyagers. And of course, to know that on each of them is our Golden Record with all of its feeling and artistry, the musical talent of the world, the imagery, the voices, the feelings.
Ann Druyan: So when I think of Voyager, I just think this is that rare place where our scientific cleverness and our artistic talent are converging in the same place to speak for us, perhaps even 5 billion with a B, years from now when we will not be able to speak for ourselves, how astonishing that is.
Mat Kaplan: And I think you know, that I am just as enamored of that convergence of art and science as you are, perhaps in part because of the work that you and Carl Sagan have done that brought those seemingly disparate concepts together so beautifully.
Mat Kaplan: We're going to come back to the Golden Record, of course, but as you know, because I just mentioned it, the day after this, I will be at JPL for this celebration of the 45th anniversary of the launch of both spacecraft, visiting I hope with some of those team members, some of whom one or two at least were there at the very beginning.
Mat Kaplan: And I just wonder if maybe you have a message, a greeting for them.
Ann Druyan: Oh, I absolutely do. I have a more than a greeting, a hug, a very passionate greeting, admiration and solidarity with the current Voyager family and with the greats of the original Voyager family. And of course, I'm thinking of the great Carl Sagan and Frank Drake, but also Ed Stone for whom I have such admiration and Suzanne Dodd, and so many wonderful people there.
Ann Druyan: I would take off an imaginary hat to them in admiration for this stunning achievement, which not only is that convergence that we talked about of art and science, but also so benign. The idea that we can use our science in high technology for the benefit of all earth life without hurting any of it is another aspect of Voyager that fills me with pride.
Mat Kaplan: Sadly of course, Ed Stone, who has been the project scientist for Voyager still is since before launch, I am told we'll be unable to join the celebration that takes place tomorrow. You told me that you didn't have much direct interaction with him, but you did know him and that I assume Carl worked with him more closely.
Ann Druyan: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, I didn't work with Ed because my small contribution was confined to the Voyager record. But of course, because of my great good fortune to be married to Carl, we were at every encounter spending very often months at a time around encounter as the Voyagers made their way from world to world.
Ann Druyan: During those times, and in more recent years, my path has crossed with Ed. What a great scientist, what a great person and what a worthy leader of the Voyager mission Ed is.
Mat Kaplan: And eventually what a great leader of the Jet Propulsion Lab itself as he was director there for many years.
Ann Druyan: Yes.
Mat Kaplan: You must have been exposed on a regular basis to the enthusiasm of your husband as data was returned, particularly during those encounters with the worlds of our solar system the two Voyager spacecraft visited. What was that like?
Ann Druyan: It was exhilarating. It was thrilling to be upstairs on one of the higher floors of one of the buildings at JPL where the imaging team was looking at the images as they came in from the outer solar system and to be sitting with perhaps six or a dozen space scientists, astronomers, geologists, looking at the data as it was coming in. Our first close up look at so many worlds, so many moons, it was thrilling.
Ann Druyan: And then to lie awake at night with Carl pouring over these pictures and to hear him thinking out loud of what he was seeing, analyzing it, finding new questions to ask. Wow, it was like a dream really. The Voyagers outperformed their design specifications in every conceivable way during that phase of the mission. And they still do.
Ann Druyan: That's another reason why I can't help, but smile with a sense, and here's a reason for hope, because if we can do something as difficult, challenging, and as ambitious at what the Voyagers have accomplished and continue to accomplish against all odds. Even greater than the most extravagant dreams of the team members of the mission, that says something about us as a species, that we have what it takes to exceed expectations.
Ann Druyan: And of course never in my view, never in our history as a species, have we been called upon to marshal, all these capabilities to save our civilization. So when I think of the Voyagers, I think we do have what it takes. But what is really needed is a focus for our efforts and the same kind of determination that the engineers and scientists and technicians brought to the Voyagers.
Mat Kaplan: You also remind me of how much we could have used Carl right now.
Ann Druyan: Really.
Mat Kaplan: I think you know Scott Bolton, the principal investigator for the Juno mission. I mean, he literally grew up with Carl visiting his parents' home and visiting with him. I think you may also know the story about that night at JPL, that Scott snuck into a room where he knew that there would be prints because we weren't pre-digital then.
Ann Druyan: Absolutely.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah. There were not being distributed yet. He snuck in with a flashlight, he told us this story, and there he finds Carl doing the same thing because neither one of them could wait until morning to get their hands on these images. I mean, I think that just says so much about both of these men.
Ann Druyan: Yes. And I remember those nights where Carl would go to JPL with this hunger, because remember Carl came of age in a time where our closest view of any of the planets were earthbound telescopes. And he dreamed his whole life from, you can see what he was just a child, but he was already dreaming of opportunities such as this one, to look far more closely at these other worlds.
Ann Druyan: So yes, I well remember Carl... I remember pouring over the Viking images, the first Viking images of Mars with Carl in 1976. Just the joy of what that was like. So yeah, that sounds like a true story, it's God's telling,
Mat Kaplan: I remember standing in von Karman Auditorium as a scruffy college radio reporter, watching those first images come in from Viking 1 back in the summer of '76 and Carl was right across the room.
Mat Kaplan: Let's talk about that Golden Record. You see it in that place of pride over my shoulder here in my home office. Officially known as the Voyager interstellar message project, how did you become the creative director for the development of that product?
Ann Druyan: It was a very, actually very extraordinary series of events and developments for that time. So it's 1977, and Carl and I have worked with our close friends and colleagues on a project for the Children's Television Workshop that was never produced. But if it been, it would've been Cosmos for kids, a kind of Sesame Street, but really Cosmos.
Ann Druyan: That was our first experience of thinking together on an actual project. And I think it inspired Carl to approach me and Tim Ferris and to ask us to collaborate with him on the Voyager record. Now in 1977, that was a time where I remember in most situations, never even getting to finish a sentence because what women had to say was so completely undervalued.
Ann Druyan: And I know, who was I? I was a 27 year old without really any credentials, but Carl singled me out as someone whom he thought he could work with. And so when he asked me to be the creative director of the project, that was just such an amazing development, because I knew that if I had that title on a NASA project, then my search for the sounds and the music and the various elements of the record was much more likely to be successful just because of that great prejudice against women at the time. It still exists, but then it was a kind of accepted as the norm.
Ann Druyan: Even with that title, when I would actually show up to try to get these sounds from the various sources, there were many times where I was literally kicked out of the office. And I remember one guy saying, "You're telling me that NASA sent a little girl to get my sound samples, how dare they?"
Ann Druyan: And so that was the norm, but Carl was magnificently free of any of the blindnesses of that time. He didn't rule anyone out. And in fact, if you look and I think it's the Cosmic Connection, under chauvinisms, the only entry is carbon based life.
Ann Druyan: Because that's who he was genuinely, and that's one of the countless reasons I am so proud of his life. He's one of the few people who you can look at all of his speeches, all of his articles, all of his books, all of his interviews, and you need not make any excuse for him.
Ann Druyan: This is going back to the 1960s, because he was so free of those sicknesses. And I think that's another reason why he's probably more beloved now, than even back then.
Mat Kaplan: I suspect that his hunch about you back then when he gave you that job proved to be an even better choice than he realized when he made it.
Ann Druyan: Thank you.
Mat Kaplan: I think back also to, and you didn't have much time to do all of this.
Ann Druyan: No.
Mat Kaplan: How in the world did you work through all of this content and then figure out what could actually be included on the record? I mean, now we could have included so much more, because digital technology has come so far. But back then you had a real limit on what you could put on this message to the stars.
Ann Druyan: Mat you're absolutely right, as usual. Yes, we only had six months time for the entire project. A very limited budget. In fact, the entire project cost NASA $18,000.
Mat Kaplan: Oh, my gosh.
Ann Druyan: And that was with Tim Ferris and four or five other people and myself working full time on this project. It wasn't that we were rich or anything like that. I had a very entry level jobs and was working to support myself, but here was a chance to confer the closest thing to immortality on the sounds and the music and the images of our beautiful planet.
Ann Druyan: And so the idea that we could touch this message in any way was more than enough reward. And so we were under a lot of pressure. We didn't have any of the capabilities. I mean, now very often I'm asked to work with people who are preparing new messages for sending beyond earth.
Ann Druyan: And I always demur because I always feel I gave it everything I had in 1977. And it's a time now for new generations to send their own messages. But if I was doing it now for the first time, I would send the whole worldwide web. I would just... The good, the bad, the ugly, everything about us.
Ann Druyan: Because first of all, there's no point in lying. No lie is so well constructed that it can live longer than what, 20 years, 30 years, a century they're very easily... Usually they fall apart because reality has so many skeins of causality that it's really, it doesn't matter what we pretend to be.
Ann Druyan: So yeah, I would just send everything about us, because then you'd be sending the contents of all the libraries on earth and much more. So it would be a completely different thing. I think the moment for sending that particular message was then, but I'm really gratified and delighted that so many people who are young now, embrace the contents of the record.
Ann Druyan: And many have said that it's the beginning of world music as a concept and a value for the United States. Because remember in 1977, the only time we ever heard music from another country was really the odd one hit novelty piece that people would take to their hearts.
Ann Druyan: But there was not this popular cultural search for the music of other cultures and in Voyager, that's exactly what we aspired to do was to give representation to as many of the great musical traditions of the world as we possibly could.
Narrator: Sagan also led the team that designed Voyager's Golden Record. It is a greeting card containing sites and sounds of our planet should one day, somewhere in interstellar space, a wayfarer were to stumble upon the spacecraft and wonder who had sent it on its adventure.
Mat Kaplan: Just one other question for you about the record, but I wonder if at the time, does anything stand out among those pieces of art, bits of sound, images that you simply could not include that you wish you could have? I mean, what was your biggest regret?
Ann Druyan: Well, I had a couple. One was that NASA at the time, would not let us send the image of the frontally naked couple. That was very carefully thought out. The woman was pregnant. And so they were overlays in successive images of the fetus within her. And they were frontally naked, of course, and NASA was, "No.".
Ann Druyan: And there were members of Congress who stepped in, who were like, "You want to send smut to the stars?" And that to me was a very tragic indicator of our self-hatred. The idea that we hated ourselves so much, that we didn't dare stand naked before the universe in this story that we were trying to tell about who we really are.
Ann Druyan: I've often thought of that image and what a shame that wasn't included. A personal favorite of mine is Bob Marley and a personal favorite among his just remarkable treasury of great music is, No Woman, No Cry. And so I had this sort of personal feeling that I wished we could have sent his music, but apart from that, I'm so proud of what we did send.
Ann Druyan: And the fact that we were successful in making this a non-nationalistic presentation, but something that really reflected the whole tapestry of world music.
Mat Kaplan: Two thoughts come to mind. One, it's a good thing it's too late to recall Pioneer's 10 and 11 with their nude depictions. And two, I don't think we have to wait for ET to send us that message, "Send more Chuck Barry." It's delightful to know that Chuck is out there among the stars as well.
Ann Druyan: Yes. Chuck told me that he was in a period of tremendous despair when the Voyager records were sent and that lifted him up out of this feeling that all of the work he'd done and all of the music he'd created was possibly not going to be valued as highly as it should be.
Narrator: At the end of the encounter at Neptune and Triton, a celebration organized by Carl Sagan and The Planetary Society was held on JPL's mall. The evening featured a surprise appearance by rock and roll great Chuck Barry. It was a fitting choice as Barry's music was now sailing outward toward the stars aboard Voyager's Golden Record. That was only one of many reasons to celebrate.
Ann Druyan: And Blind Willie Johnson who no one had ever heard of at the time, aside from the connoisseurs of Delta Blues, and the great music of the past. But the idea that this human being whose genius was so disregarded that he died of exposure to the rain, because he didn't even have a shelter to protect him from the elements. And that his music lives on in Dark Was the Night, as close to forever as we get.
Ann Druyan: And the great Louis Armstrong and the Peruvian Panpipes and the Japanese shakuhachi and the Javanese gamelan and the Senegalese percussion piece and some 25 other pieces of music will really, never die.
Mat Kaplan: And one woman's brain waves, right?
Ann Druyan: Yes. Yeah. Well personally, that's the thing that really gets me, is to have fallen in true love with Carl Sagan during the making of this record, and then to have had my brainwaves, rapid eye movement, heart sounds, every single signal that I was giving off at that time during an hour of meditation about the history of the world, and the meaning of love, a mere three days after Carl and I had fallen deeply into true love. The idea that, that's on the Voyager record, my brainwaves in a kind of joyfulness that has proven every day since to have been completely well founded and valid. That's really meant everything.
Mat Kaplan: The essence of one human being's physical presence in the universe, I would say. You know that we love, whenever we get the opportunity at The Planetary Society and here on this show, to listen to, or repeat what I am going to call the Pale Blue Dot soliloquy. If you could take us back to that fight that Carl and you waged to turn Voyager around when it was past Neptune, and look back at our home planet.
Ann Druyan: Well, that was all Carl. That wasn't me. i, of course, I'm sure I encouraged him, but it was Carl's brilliant idea in 1981 to appreciate that when Voyager had taken its last pictures of the world's of the outer solar system after the Neptune encounter, that Voyager 1 could now turn its cameras homeward, to look at the sun and its red view of planets.
Ann Druyan: He started lobbying NASA in 1981, eight years before the last Voyager encounter saying would they please arrange to take these last pictures of the home planet and its sibling planets. And NASA for the first six, seven years was completely resistant to this idea. And they would say things like, "It'll fry the lenses of the camera to look towards the sun."
Mat Kaplan: What else was there to look at?
Ann Druyan: Of course the cameras are not going to be used ever again.
Mat Kaplan: Really.
Ann Druyan: Or they would say, "What's the scientific value of such a picture?" And Carl understood that here was the potential for the greatest teachable moment, perhaps in human history. At the time, it was most urgently needed to actually see our true circumstances, to understand the earth as a mere pixel in the solar system, let alone the Milky Way Galaxy at the universe, to take us, to wean us from our delusions of importance and centrality.
Ann Druyan: But also to wean us of the delusion that this earth was infinitely plunderable and exploitable, and that we could go on ruining the environment that sustains us without ever having to be held accountable for these crimes. And so he would schlepp to Washington, DC, to NASA headquarters on numerous occasions. And when he was out at JPL, pleading to have this picture taken.
Ann Druyan: And it wasn't until I believe around the time of the Neptune encounter, that he was first told that they had decided to do it. And so on Valentine's day, 1990, as imagine the beautiful Voyager 1 rising from the plane of the solar system and all the dust, and looking down, looking back to the sun and its family of planets to see that even the mightiest among them was essentially a dot.
Ann Druyan: It was soon after that, sitting in our living room in the same house I'm in right now, that we stared at the pictures of the family album of the sun, he called it. Each picture and then focused particularly on the image of earth. And the two of us had a kind of meditation, which became the Pale Blue Dot soliloquy. Mostly Carl, but a phrase here and there from me.
Ann Druyan: Anecdotally, the input that I get every single day from all over the world, requesting the rights to reproduce in one fashion or another, the Pale Blue Dot soliloquy is any indication, it hit its mark. People, it's another thing that gives me hope. I think there is a coalescing community of people on earth who really want to see us cherish and treat each other more kindly and take care of this tiny planet.
Ann Druyan: And so that in the long term, our children, grandchildren and theirs, will be able to enjoy the beauty of this world.
Narrator: In 1990, Voyager 1 over three and a half billion miles away from its home snapped these images. This first ever family portrait of the solar system was the idea of scientist, Carl Sagan.
Ann Druyan: Consider again that dot that's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know. Everyone you ever heard of, every human being whoever was, lived out their lives. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great, enveloping, cosmic, dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. For the moment, the earth is where we make our stand.
Ann Druyan: It underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the Pale Blue Dot the only home we've ever known.
Mat Kaplan: I think it will live on for a very, very long time. We're nearing the end of our time together. Just a couple of other questions. Last night, I went on the Cosmos Studios website and watched the trailer for Cosmos, season three for the first time in maybe a couple of years. Watched the whole series, of course. I'll tell you it's on the DVR downstairs.
Mat Kaplan: It pulled me right back in. It was just spellbinding. Can we hope for a continuation? Is there hope for a fourth season? Or is there anything else you are up to? I know you told me about one thing we can't really talk about yet, but you're obviously staying very busy.
Ann Druyan: I am very busy, as busy as ever. Thank you so much for what you said about season three of Cosmos, Mat. That means so much to me. Yes. I have been working with Brannon Braga and Sam Sagan, who's new series is out this week for Bill Nye. We have been collaborating on a new season of Cosmos, so let's hope that that comes to fruition.
Ann Druyan: And there are actually four other projects that are in very vigorous shape. And I think they all have excellent chances of materializing. And so I can't really announce anything yet, but I have a lot of hope for these projects that are keeping me very busy. I just feel so strongly that what we need is to awaken to the glory of nature as revealed by science. That's what will make us act in defense of our little part of it.
Ann Druyan: And science is delivering the goods. It's warned us of the dangers we face for more than 100 years. And it got those things right, which is a predictive power unrivaled like any other human enterprise. And then there's the joy of the web telescope and all of the great things that the scientific community is doing.
Ann Druyan: And so I see as my lifelong passion, communicating the power of the scientific perspective and doing it so painlessly that it just becomes kind of a natural experience. So let's see, I hope I get to do a lot of these projects.
Mat Kaplan: Painlessly and beautifully, I'm glad to hear that we have more to look forward to. I'm going to push my luck here in a couple of ways, both in terms of time and a sort of shot in the dark with one more question.
Ann Druyan: Oh please.
Mat Kaplan: Thank you. Have you ever seen the movie, Things To Come, the 1936 film?
Ann Druyan: I sure have, yes.
Mat Kaplan: Okay. It has meant a lot to me my whole life. I've been a fan my whole life. In the closing scene, the character played by Raymond Massey is watching a spacecraft carry his daughter and some other young people toward the moon. And his closing speech about why we must explore has always inspired me, like the whole film. There are portions of that speech and the film itself that are awfully dated now. Still when he says, I think the line is, "All the universe or nothingness, which shall it be?"
Ann Druyan: Yes. And in fact, I think also HG Wells said something like, "The stars or nothing." Something on that same theme, which was so prescient of the creators of that amazing film and of HG Wells, who was a visionary, unparalleled.
Ann Druyan: And that sense that either we use our cleverness to learn how to take care of each other and the planet and venture forward to explore, or we turn those powers into destruction, into a kind of internecine, suicidal civilization that does not take our species forward, does not honor the existence of the other life forms with whom we share this planet. That's the question. That is really the question.
Ann Druyan: Will we put all our resources into ensuring that our civilization survives and brings out the best in the people who inhabit it, or are we going to destroy ourselves?
Ann Druyan: It's been true, we've known this in one form or another for a century now. And to me, this question seems more current, more urgent, than it ever has. And I just don't want to go on too long, but I have to tell you that that film and of course the 1939 World's Fair, which was Carl's great moment of breakthrough at the age of five, that there was such a thing as the future. And that science was the way to get to it.
Ann Druyan: My own experience in the 1964 World's Fair as a kid from Queens who grew up next to it, those were really pivotal moments in our lives. And I think with this great shadow hanging over our future right now, we all feel it. And the question is, do we have the courage to imagine the kind of future that's worthy of our children and grandchildren? And to do the hard work right now to make sure that they live to enjoy it? That's the question.
Mat Kaplan: Thank you for capturing so much of that optimism. In Cosmos of the third season, which had to do with the World's Fair, but also in so much of the other work that you have undertaken with your colleagues. And of course your great colleague, your life colleague, Carl Sagan.
Mat Kaplan: And let's hope that this work and the Voyager spacecraft continue to be in the vanguard of leading us toward that tomorrow that I think humanity is capable of.
Mat Kaplan: Thank you so much, Ann.
Ann Druyan: Oh Mat, every time we have a chance to have a conversation, I always just feel so uplifted by it. Thank you so much. Anytime. Anytime. I look forward to the next one,
Mat Kaplan: Back at you, times 10. We've been talking with Ann Druyan.
Carl Sagan: Every human culture has rights of passage. They mark the transition from one stage of life to another. We are gathered here to celebrate Voyager's right of passage. A machine designed, built and operated right here at JPL has broken free of the sun's gravity, explored most of the worlds of the solar system and is now on its way to the great dark ocean of interstellar space. The men and women responsible are gathered here.
Carl Sagan: They are heroes of human accomplishment. Their deeds will be remembered in the history books. Our remote descendants may live on some of the world's first revealed to us by Voyager. If so, those descendants will look back upon us as we look on Christopher Columbus.
Carl Sagan: Voyager reminds us of the rarity and preciousness of what our planet holds, of our responsibility to preserve life on earth. If we are capable of such grand, longterm, benign, visionary, high technology endeavors as Voyager, can we not use our technological gifts and longterm vision to put this planet right? To take care of one another, to cherish the earth and bravely, to venture forth in the footsteps of Voyager to the planets and the stars.
Mat Kaplan: Time for a Voyager special anniversary edition of WhatsApp. And here is the chief scientist of The Planetary Society, Bruce Betts. Hey, there. You're obviously a fan of that mission.
Bruce Betts: Huge fan, hard to be into planetary science and not be a huge fan of Voyager.
Mat Kaplan: I was showing posters to somebody at the office yesterday and there were the mission posters done first by Chop Shop. We had done the poll for them and Voyager was chosen at that point as the people's favorite planetary science robotic mission. And I think that's still true.
Bruce Betts: It's quite amazing. It's hard to argue with its longevity or the new worlds that the two spacecraft opened up to us.
Mat Kaplan: Yeah. So what do you want to open up to us?
Bruce Betts: Old worlds that we've seen before, but it's neat to see them again. Saturn up at sunset in the east looking yellowish, we've got an hour or two later, we've got Jupiter coming up bright in the east. A couple hours later, we got Mars in the middle of the night and coming up earlier all the time and getting brighter all the time as earth and Mars grow closer over the next couple months. And near Mars check out Aldebaran, which is a bright reddish star that'll be near the, even much brighter these days, Mars, who is of course reddish.
Bruce Betts: And in the pre-dawn sky if you've got a nice, clear view to the eastern horizon, you can check out Venus. Otherwise, it's going to be tough. It's going away. It's taking a sabbatical for a little bit and it's just headed off.
Bruce Betts: We move on to this week in space history. Anything happened this week, Mat?
Mat Kaplan: It remains to be seen as we speak, but I bet you have other stuff that already happened.
Bruce Betts: It turns out and you probably haven't discussed this, but 1977 Voyager 1 was launched.
Mat Kaplan: Oh, there's that.
Bruce Betts: Details. A year earlier, Viking 2 landed successfully on Mars. We move on to Random Space fact.
Bruce Betts: I've never been a huge fan of the hypothetical disturbing facts, but people seem to enjoy them. So here you go. Here's one for all of you. An unprotected human somehow riding on Voyager 1 during its Jupiter encounter, would've received a radiation dose equal to 1000 times the lethal level.
Mat Kaplan: Is that all?
Bruce Betts: Now, first they would be in a vacuum of space as soon as it launched. So it's very hypothetical, but yeah, only 1000 times. If it were 500 times, then action heroes could make it through. But I don't think they're going to survive 1000 times.
Mat Kaplan: Plus I think that the mini fridge on the Voyager spacecraft was eliminated for budgetary and mass reasons early on. So you probably have nothing to keep your sandwich, your McBLT cold.
Bruce Betts: But there's some RTGS that'll keep them warm. Some radio isotope thermal electric generators.
Mat Kaplan: Good thinking. Good thinking.
Bruce Betts: Although they're cooling off, all the time.
Mat Kaplan: I don't know why you don't like this stuff. I love it. Hey, let's go on to what may have been the most frustrating and poorly responded to contest in the history of Planetary Radio.
Bruce Betts: Yes. I mean, I am so sorry. Sadly refers to a Planetary Society project. Totally new kind of thing that was on a spacecraft that failed. What TPS spacecraft flight project had a penguin as part of its logo? We did great. We got at least two, maybe six entries, right?
Mat Kaplan: A few more than that, but not many. Most of you talked about how tough this was. Many of you said that you were making guesses. And we got some pretty interesting guesses along the way. Like ISAT 2, which was not a Planetary Society project. Michael Unger in British Columbia came up with a 1999 Bechard Expedition or excursion to Antarctica.
Mat Kaplan: Bechard of course, being a travel company that The Planetary Society partners with. The best entry that I got came from Joseph Calipotray in the New Jersey. He said, "There is no penguin. It's all in your mind."
Bruce Betts: And he's right. No, no, he's not. There was a two dimensional penguin. There was even a three dimensional plush penguin, I've heard.
Mat Kaplan: How about this? Mel Powell in California says it was his first pure guess in all the years he is entered the contest. Never missed any.
Bruce Betts: Wow.
Mat Kaplan: Here's his apparently Vulcan deduction. He remembered that I had said it was before my time at the Society. You Bruce, said it was a known TPS program. And lastly, his connection of the word polar. "Elementary, my Mr. Powell," he came up with the Mars microphone. Was he right?
Bruce Betts: Nailed it.
Mat Kaplan: Congratulations, Mel. But there were only two other correct answers. So I'm also going to credit John Geiten in Australia who said, "Tough one. Give me more."
Bruce Betts: I like it.
Mat Kaplan: And finally our own poet Laureate, Dave Fairchild in Kansas, not only got it right, but how to poem to accompany it. Here it is. "Back in 1999, a contest was begun to name a bird departing for the fourth rock from the sun. Twas a penguin colored green and headed far from home, a mascot on the logo of a Martian microphone. It was named for Admiral Bird, a Southern polar guy. But unlike him, our penguin launched into the earthly skies. I draw a curtain over what the ending had in store, but it will be sufficient that a penguin never soars." Oh, God.
Bruce Betts: Oh wow.
Mat Kaplan: Too soon?
Bruce Betts: Yeah. I was involved with all the other permutations of microphones that either flew and didn't go on, or didn't get accepted or anyway, it's a long, sad story. Fortunately, now others have followed in our wake and gotten sounds from Mars Perseverance Rover.
Bruce Betts: I'm really impressed. He not only got it right. He knew the penguin was green and named Admiral Bird. Those are correct. And I will send you a picture of the Mars microphone sticker.
Bruce Betts: So it was the first attempt to get sounds from the surface of Mars, unfortunately was onboard the Mars Polar Lander spacecraft, which failed when trying to land in the polar regions where penguins hang out in the South Pole. Okay.
Mat Kaplan: All right. Well, Dave Fairchild, believe it or not, random.org, didn't have a whole lot to choose from, but it did choose you. So we're going to send you that copy of the Spacefarers Handbook: Science and Life Beyond Earth by Bergita and Urs Ganse. It's a really fun book to read.
Mat Kaplan: And Mel and John Geitin, we'll come up with something for the two of you, as well. I don't know. Maybe a nice little rubber asteroid or two. How's that?
Bruce Betts: Yeah. It's nice of you. Good job. And nice job everyone. And sorry to torture you. We talk about Mars microphones, including this one on our site, but somehow over the years, Admiral Bird has faded away.
Mat Kaplan: I have really been looking forward to this next contest because it is Voyager focused, at least in terms of prize. I haven't heard the question yet. What have you got for us?
Bruce Betts: All right. I went through many permutations, but I decided to do something that looks at the length of time the Voyagers have been successfully flying. They're still working. Here's your question. How many JPL directors have there been since the Voyagers launched? Go to planetary.org/radio contest.
Mat Kaplan: You need to get us this one by the 7th. That'll be Wednesday, September 7, at 8:00 AM, Pacific Time. And here are the great prizes, plural.
Bruce Betts: Ooh.
Mat Kaplan: Oh yeah, I know. Voyager photographs from Humanities Greatest Journey. It is a brand new coffee table book. Just looks absolutely gorgeous. It's from Jens Bezemer. He's the author. One of the two authors, Joel Meter as well. It's from TeNeues Publishing and it's already on Amazon. It's brand new. You can probably find it, I'm sure, other places as well. But wait, there's more.
Bruce Betts: No way.
Mat Kaplan: Back during the Neptune encounter of 1989, August 1989, The Planetary Society had some medallions made. And on one side it says, "The Planetary Society salutes the men and women of Voyager." And there were 5,000 of these medallions made. I'm holding number 3,618. On the back is the design that decorates the cover for the Voyager Golden Record on both spacecraft, which I have right behind me here in my office as well.
Mat Kaplan: We have one of those at least that we can send out to the winner of the book, the Voyager book. Get those entries in everybody by the 7th.
Bruce Betts: I'd like to make one little clarification, because maybe people won't get mad at me, include acting directors. All right everybody, go out there, look up at the night sky and think about what you were doing 45 years ago. And whether you're still working. Thank you. And good night.
Mat Kaplan: Just barely. I think I'm due to go in for the shop for a tune up just like the Voyager spacecraft, but Bruce of course is the chief scientist. And he's in great shape right here on WhatsApp.
Mat Kaplan: Planetary Radio is produced by The Planetary Society in Pasadena, California, and it's made possible by its voyaging members. Become part of our journey at planetary.org/join.
Mat Kaplan: Mark Hilverda and Rae Paoletta are our associate producers. Josh Doyle composed our theme, which is arranged and performed by Pieter Schlosser. Ad astra.