A Storyville documentary: how the twin Voyager space probes defied all the odds and almost 40 years later continue to beam revolutionary information across unimaginable distances.
Browse content similar to The Farthest: Voyager's Interstellar Journey. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
# I'm wishing on a star
# To follow where you are
# I'm wishing on a dream
# To follow what it means
# And I wish on all the rainbows... #
When it was just recently announced that Voyager 1 was in interstellar
space, it was like humanity had just become an interstellar species,
knocking on eternity's door.
Voyager's on the other side of the solar system and it's billions and
billions of miles from the nearest other human-made object.
Voyager made it.
Accomplished something no-one dreamed it could do.
Every second, it goes to another
place where we have never been before.
It's on an escape trajectory.
It's not coming back.
It's just going to keep going
forever and ever out into empty, empty space.
Voyager takes the cake.
It's the most audacious mission.
I mean, who'd have thought that we'd actually be able to do that in 1977?
# I'm wishing on a star... #
We knew a little because you can
observe from the Earth with telescopes.
It was big.
No, er, let's see, what did we know?
We knew they were all gas giants,
mostly made up of hydrogen and helium and some methane on the outer
-We knew that there were winds on Jupiter.
We knew about the great red spot on Jupiter.
We knew that there was trapped radiation.
So we knew there was a magnetic field.
We knew, for example, at Jupiter, that there were four moons.
Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.
That's what convinced Galileo that Copernicus was right and that the
sun is the centre of the solar system.
For Saturn, we knew about the rings and we knew about the major
satellites, but hardly anything more than that,
and it was all very fuzzy.
And the same was true for Uranus and Neptune. They're very far away.
I had been staring at these planets through some of the best telescopes
on Earth, and yet all I could see was fuzzy blobs.
Uranus was a small, blueish-green dot in the telescope and Neptune was
an even smaller blueish dot, and that's all.
Astronomers had worked pretty hard
to know what the physical make-up was.
There were some basic characteristics,
but their real nature, we had none of that. Just little glimpses.
There's theory, but then there's unknowns,
and we're researching the unknowns.
Human beings are a curious bunch.
We want to know what's around that next bend in the road.
This desire to explore conveys an
evolutionary advantage, and I think there
is a feeling that our survival as a species is going to depend on our
learning how to live on other worlds.
It's a very human thing to ask questions.
It's a very childlike thing to ask a million questions.
And some of us never grow up.
One of the key things that made this mission possible was gravity assist.
That is when you fly by Jupiter, you turn the corner and you take a
little bit of Jupiter's orbital speed with you, like a slingshot.
So you better make sure Saturn's in the right place.
We were very fortunate that we had an alignment.
Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune would all line up.
It would go Jupiter, boom.
Saturn, boom. Uranus, boom. Neptune, boom.
The planets had to be lined up in just the right way to
allow one spacecraft to do that.
And that lining up only occurs rarely.
That only happens once, like, once every 100, more than 100 years.
175 years, something like that.
Once every 176 years.
It was named the Outer Planets Grand Tour and the cost of the mission was
estimated to be in excess of a billion dollars.
The Nasa administrator went to the
President and he said the last time the
planets were lined up like that,
President Jefferson was sitting at your desk, and he blew it.
So Mr Nixon laughed and he said, "Oh, all right, just do two."
So only two planets and, of course,
the price tag consequently was substantially less.
The mission's success was one spacecraft past Saturn.
But we knew right from the get-go
that we were going to try as hard as we
could to extend the mission to go to Uranus and Neptune.
We designed that in from the beginning.
We knew that we were endowing Voyager
with the option if the chance was there to use it.
We didn't want to build anything
into the design that would've prevented
us from going further, so it was a mission within a mission, yeah.
The Golden Record really is the kind of heartbeat of the ship itself.
The reason why it's going there is certainly exploring,
but it's the lifeblood, is that record.
When do you expect someone to find this record out there?
Is there something out there?
Well, nobody knows. One of the great unsolved questions
is whether we're alone or...
Carl Sagan has become probably the best-known scientist of
the late 20th century.
He played a key role in many of the Nasa missions to the planets,
including the Voyager one.
But he also was the astronomer who, as much as any one person,
made the study of extraterrestrial life credible.
If they be inhabited, what a scope for misery and folly.
If they be not inhabited, what a waste of space.
Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft,
they had some line drawings of a male and female form,
and it caused a lot of commotion, but I thought that was great.
And I called him up and said, "Hey, would you be willing to undertake
"to come up with something for us to put on the Voyager spacecraft?"
And he says, "Yes, sure."
They'd figured, don't let this opportunity pass.
You're going to throw a message in a bottle into the ocean -
put a message in it. And so they
decided to put time capsules in those bottles.
And at first, Carl thought they'd simply do another plaque,
but Frank Drake, he came up with the idea that for the same amount of
weight and space you could send a phonograph record.
The only difference is it's on metal, so it will last a long time.
The people who actually did the
science part of Voyager are always jealous
and mad because the Golden Record gets more attention than all the
wonderful things they did,
exploring the outer planets of the
solar system except Pluto and all that.
But the main attention goes to the Golden Record.
Because of the aura that surrounds anything to do with extraterrestrial
any kind of effort to contact extraterrestrial life
is more fascinating than knowing the
chemical make-up of a mineral on Mars or something.
One of the first questions a lot of people ask is,
"Well, they'll never figure out how to play it."
And, in fact, we included a cartridge and stylus
in the package with the record,
and the drawing on the cover of the record shows the method by which the
stylus is to be placed on the record.
Maybe what's written on it will seem like kindergarten scribbles to them,
but they should be able to figure it out.
If they've got some smart minds, or whatever's in their heads -
if they even have heads.
What I find interesting is, to protect it from the dust
and tiny particles of the journey, they put a cover over it,
and on the cover was engraved the location of Earth, our solar system,
in terms of its direction from different pulsars.
A lot of people said, "Well, why would you do that?"
I said, "What do you mean?" And they said,
"Well, why would you announce where you are,
"because there are aliens out there that probably raid planets and use
"them for food or eat the people or make them into slavery,
"and if they find that their technology is probably more advanced
"than ours, they'll come here and destroy us,
"so why would you do something like that?"
So if somebody did find it, they would be thinking that way,
and they'd say, "Why would these
"people expose themselves to our voracious appetite?"
They must be very altruistic, you know?
The chance that advanced intelligence
beyond us would detect -
"Oh, hey, there's a radiating body coming into our area.
"Let's go out and find out what this bottle in the ocean,
"what message it might have."
Now, is that a grand mystery?
Well, that brings up the whole question -
is there anybody out there?
Listen, there are,
give or take, 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy.
There are about 200 billion galaxies in the universe,
or at least in the universe we know about.
It's a pretty small spacecraft, and it's a pretty big universe.
If you take a piece of sky the size of a soda straw,
up there in the Big Dipper,
in that tiny piece of what we thought was blank sky
was thousands of galaxies,
and each one of those galaxies is filled with billions of stars.
That's just a soda straw,
and now you imagine the whole sky filled with thousands upon thousands
upon thousands of galaxies,
each of which is billions and billions of stars.
There's a lot of possibility out there.
If you took a grain of sand and put it on a table,
and if that were the size of the sun,
then the Earth would be about an inch away,
and it would be microscopic,
and the entire solar system would fit on a table six feet across.
Think about the next star. The next star would be another grain of sand.
How far away from that solar system would you have to put that?
And it turns out to be about seven and a half miles away.
The distances are almost unfathomable.
These were the fastest spacecraft
that had ever been built and launched and flown,
and they're travelling at ten miles per second.
You wouldn't even see it, right?
And yet, even at those
it takes decades, decades,
to get out there into the outer solar system.
If you want to realise how empty our galaxy is,
the nearest galaxy to our own is Andromeda.
It's about two million light years away.
It is on a collision course with us right now.
And in five billion years, that galaxy's going to collide with our
own, and you might say, "Oh, no, oh, no!" Well, it turns out
space is... Even in our galaxy, it's mostly empty space.
When our two galaxies collide,
almost no stars will hit any other star.
-It's mostly empty space.
-There's just a lot of room out there.
A lot of room.
So this adventure for this little spacecraft is really just
exploring the tiniest, closest neighbourhood,
when you start thinking about cosmic scales.
The spacecraft were built at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
It's a federal research centre that's part of Caltech,
and they build spacecraft.
One of the things I just admire most
about the engineers who built Voyager
is that they're always thinking
about the most improbable things happening.
You know, you want to take those people on a camping trip with you,
because they will think of everything.
"Well, you've got to bring..." "What if these bugs come out?"
"What if the tent gets flooded?" "What if we run out of gas?"
"What if you can't start the fire?"
You know. They're the "what if" people.
And when you're sending something out into space,
you can't go do a service call, you can't bring it back.
So your "what if" list had better be, like, that long,
or you're not going to be able to survive.
These projects begin with a conceptualisation period.
How feasible is it for us to do thus and so?
We didn't know what the spacecraft was going to look like.
How do we arrange the spacecraft?
How do we take the communications system in this large,
12-foot diameter fixed antenna
and arrange it relative to the propulsion system?
The spacecraft took on the dimension of being a child,
and our design teams, you know, were like parents.
This was actually a nurturing process,
bringing that child, if you will,
All spacecraft are made basically of the same things,
silicon and aluminium. That's probably 95% of it.
The spacecraft, of course, is quite primitive by modern-day standards.
We have three computers onboard.
Their total memory is about, oh,
240,000 times less than in your smartphone.
1972 was when you had the technology freeze.
Remember, we launched in '77,
so you'd freeze technology several years earlier.
And at the time, the biggest
computers in the world were comparable to the
kinds of things we have in our pockets today,
and I'm not talking about a cellphone.
I'm actually talking about a key fob.
What's wrong with '70s technology?
I mean, you're looking at me - I'm a '30s technology, right?
I don't apologise for limitations
that we were working with at the time.
We milked the technology for what we could get from it.
Voyager is about 800 kilograms.
Its main antenna is 12 feet in diameter,
which is the largest we could launch.
There's this body, this ten-sided can called the Bus,
and that's got all the electronics and computers.
And it's got these arms and these appendages that stick out,
and there's these feet that connected it to the rocket.
And then a really long arm with a
magnetic field sensor on it over here,
and another arm over there with this
plutonium power supply to give it its electricity.
You can't keep that too close to the spacecraft because it'll
radiate the spacecraft.
And another arm with this device that had the cameras and other
instruments on it that could point around, kind of like the eyes,
and the big antenna was the ears.
When everything is fully extended,
it's comparable in size to sort of a small school bus.
A strange-looking being for our planet,
but perfectly happy in space.
MUSIC: Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Opus 67 by Beethoven
I became the producer of only one record in my career,
and only two copies of it were made
and they were both hurled off the Earth,
so I don't know that's a credential or not.
The launch window for Voyager was set.
It had to do with an alignment of the outer planets.
They sure as hell weren't going to wait for the record.
We had six weeks to do it. That's what always draws the biggest gasp.
Figure out a way to explain the world to aliens and, by the way,
it has to be finished in six weeks.
We had two goals in making the Voyager record.
We wanted the music to represent
many different cultures around the world,
and not just the culture of the
society that had built and launched the spacecraft.
The other criteria was we wanted it to be a good record.
It's a very idiosyncratic message.
It doesn't seem like something made by a committee. It's too quirky.
MUSIC PLAYS: The Magic Flute, K. 620, Act II, Hell's Vengeance Boils In My Heart by Mozart
If you listen to the Voyager record,
it would be remarkable if you didn't hear some pieces of music
that were quite unlike anything you'd heard before.
The Japanese Shakuhachi piece,
or the 16-year-old pygmy girl singing -
it was called an initiation song,
kind of puberty song -
in the Ituri Forest of Africa is just unbelievably beautiful.
It was a terrific, mind-expanding adventure.
Always the criterion was that we were trying to describe our culture,
and something we wanted very much was the music of the Beatles,
and they said, "No way," and we said,
"Well, this is all going in outer space.
"It will never be heard on Earth."
"No, we don't do it."
They don't license for outer space.
I would have loved to have had a Bob Dylan piece,
but really there was only room for, at most,
one contemporary rock piece.
But, you know, you're up against Chuck Berry's Johnny B Goode,
which Bob Dylan himself would admit is an awfully good single.
It may be just four simple words,
but it is the first positive proof
that other intelligent beings inhabit the universe.
What are the four words, Cocuwa?
Send more Chuck Berry.
The world is full of fantastic music,
and it goes without saying there's a lot more great music that's not on
the Voyager record than there is on it.
Which is a good thing, too. I mean, it'd be...
Imagine living on planet that was so
pathetic that it only had 90 minutes of decent music.
-Flight control to launch enable.
The countdown will begin at ten minutes before midnight tonight.
The journey, which will take the
technology of Earth out of our solar system...
When it was launched, it was, of course, all folded up.
It was like origami.
Here was this almost unexpected encapsulation.
I mean, we knew that we were going to be encapsulated,
but the emotional effect on that was kind of surprising.
I noticed that in just looking around me.
I realised that this was the last time any of us were going to see
this spacecraft with eyes, and...
..that's a fairly moving experience.
-Environmental control ready.
We actually launched Voyager 2 first, and this gave the media...
Drove them nuts. We launched Voyager 1 later,
but it was launched on a faster trajectory,
so it overtook Voyager 2 in December 1977.
From that point on, Voyager 1 always got to the planet before Voyager 2,
and the press was happy. They understood it.
We have just had a report from John Casani, the
Voyager project manager, that we'll be able to countdown at 10:25.
They were launched on a Titan launch vehicle,
which were intercontinental ballistic missiles for a long time,
and some of them, as they were decommissioned,
were turned into rockets to launch spacecraft out to the planets.
Five, four, three, two, one.
We have ignition, and we have liftoff.
You see the solids ignite,
and you're really not prepared for what's about to occur.
The sound waves then catch up,
and then this...
forceful shaking -
the body has actually moved in resonance with this energy,
shaking it, right?
We were sitting in bleachers,
and they keep you pretty far from the launch vehicle because they can
explode, and it's... Basically, it's a big bomb.
So there was a little bit of holding your breath,
and wanting to make sure you see it get that first little motion off the
pad, starting into space.
We were all thinking this thought - there it goes.
And it's going to be out there to
represent us for the next five billion years.
I was a seven-year-old child watching it go and thinking, like,
"Oh, I had some small thing to do on that."
But no real significance, but it was like, "Oh, yeah, OK, goodbye."
There were outbursts of joy.
We were on our way.
And then we launched it, and then other things went crazy.
The spacecraft began to do things
that we had no expectation that it would have done.
Us poor people on Earth were like, "What is it doing?"
As the launch vehicle leaves the launch pad, it has to roll through a
certain angle to get to the right direction for departure.
And the rate that it rolls at is a much higher rate than the spacecraft
would never normally experience flying,
and so the gyro hits the stops.
Voyager was not in control of itself.
It's just riding this big rocket,
and that was shaking it in such a way that it thought it was failing,
and so it started switching off various boxes,
changing to the backup this, to the backup that,
trying to figure out why all this stuff was happening.
For a couple of days, it was a real nail-biter
and people were asking us, "Have you lost the spacecraft?"
And we would say, "We don't know for sure,"
because we didn't know for sure.
And the headline read, "Mutiny in Space."
The Voyager spacecraft had decided it just didn't want to follow the
instructions that its human controllers were giving it and it
was going to do what it wanted to do.
Fortunately, the person who had written that code was able to say,
"This is OK - it's doing this, it tried that.
"It's doing this, it tried that."
And calm everyone else down.
All the time it was doing that crazy stuff it was doing exactly what we
had designed it to do all along.
The limits were set simply too tight.
It needed to be able to wiggle more and vibrate more.
All of those things were solved for Voyager 1.
When Voyager 1 lifted off, we're thinking everything's OK,
and then we begin to hear this - we call it chatter -
over the launch vehicle net
that something wasn't right.
I looked over at him and he looked
like he was a little worried, you know,
and I said, "What's the matter, Charlie?"
And he says, "I don't know. I don't
"think we're going to make it," you know.
There was a leak in the propellant line,
and we were losing propellant overboard.
So while it was burning, propellant
was escaping from the launch vehicle,
and that's why its second stage
never got to deliver its full thrust,
because it ran out of fuel.
And so the upper stage, which was a Centaur
liquid hydrogen and oxygen stage, had to make up for that.
And the Centaur is the stage that's doing the guidance,
so the Centaur knows that it's not reaching the required velocity,
because it has to burn longer to add more velocity.
The Centaur had to use 1,200 pounds of extra propellant.
Now we're all thinking,
"Is it going to have enough left in
"the tanks to make a normal injection?
"Or is it going to run out of fuel?"
Fortunately, it had three and a half seconds of thrusting left before it
had run to fuel depletion.
Three and a half seconds.
So Voyager 1 just barely made it.
It wouldn't have gotten enough
velocity to get to Jupiter, you know,
so instead of getting to Jupiter, you know,
we'd have gotten almost to Jupiter and then it would come back towards
the sun, which would not have been good.
# I watch the distant lights go down the runway
# Disappearing through the evening sky
# Oh, you know I'm with you on your journey
# Never could say goodbye... #
And then, of course, you know,
there's the thought that it's out of our hands.
Now the major reason for this mission was about to unfold,
that is the science, but our role as
keepers, as progenitors,
our role had been finished.
That was moving.
# Break away
# Fly across your ocean
# Break away
# Time has come for you
# Break away
# Fly across your ocean
# Break away
# Time has come... #
It's worth realising that a human life ago,
less than 100 years ago, 87 years ago,
the universe consisted of one galaxy, our Milky Way galaxy,
in a static eternal universe, with eternal empty space.
We didn't know about the other
hundred billion galaxies a single human lifetime ago.
You can never really imagine... You can try,
but you can never really imagine
what Mother Nature will actually have in store when you get there.
It seems like time really flew.
I don't think we really fully understood,
before the first Jupiter encounter, just how intense it was going to be.
No, we didn't.
We found out.
You start working on a mission in 1972, you launch in 1977.
All of that, there's no science.
It's all getting ready.
And then, March '79, the flood.
The encounters, they creep up on you.
When we were approaching,
every picture was the greatest picture ever taken of Jupiter.
In the beginning, it would be just a little dot getting bigger on the
screen every day, and as we would get closer and closer,
the images became more dramatic.
Incredibly strange and beautiful,
and now, by Voyager, revealed in all of its splendour.
Would someone care to speculate what you would say to Galileo Galilei if
he walked into the room today?
How are you able to live so long?
I think Galileo...
Jupiter is more than ten times the diameter of Earth -
it's huge. And it's mainly hydrogen and helium.
There's no solid surface on these planets.
These planets are liquid - gas and liquid - deep inside.
The gas is compressed the further down you go,
and it gets very hot indeed.
And you would melt, vaporise in fact,
if you tried to fly through Jupiter.
Let me first modify your statement - not that it was wrong...
The atmospheric scientists got long-range views,
because we weren't looking at tiny moons,
we were looking at the big planet.
And so we could see things going on before the other groups could see
things, and we were always the first to start shouting.
Even to this day, we don't fly colour detectors.
You get a much higher resolution image in black and white,
and so when we want to make colour
we take them through different filters
and then on the ground you put it
together and make a colour image out of it.
That acceleration as you're
approaching encounters is really something
that becomes very, very exciting.
We called it drinking out of a fire hose.
You know, you're trying to take a little sip,
and this torrent of data is coming out.
You go to Jupiter and you have a
storm that's been around for more than
300 years. That's the great red spot.
You could fit two or three Earths inside it.
When Voyager started getting
close-up images we realised that it was very active,
and that deepened the mystery of how these big storms could even
exist, with all this
turbulence going on.
It was swallowing up clouds and spitting out others.
We knew that it was a vortex, but to see it in action...
Every day, you're wondering, "Did we build the spacecraft well enough?
"Did we anticipate all the possible things that could go wrong?"
You're approaching this monster, essentially.
This monster magnetic field, this monster radiation environment,
on purpose, because you need to get close,
because you want to see all the little moons and the clouds and the
storms, and you want to slingshot on to Saturn.
But you just don't know if you're going to survive.
The thing gets fried, you lose the mission.
Still out there physically intact probably,
but unable to communicate with it - the mission's over.
Two months before shipping to the Cape for launch,
the scientists were predicting that the magnetic fields around Jupiter
were intense enough that they would accelerate particles.
Well, we were hearing initially 40,000 volts.
That would be the end of our spacecraft.
Cabling on these appendages were conductors that would take these
destroying pulses and just feed them right into our systems and kill us.
So we needed to ground everything.
We didn't have time to go through the normal design reviews,
so in order to get this protection done quickly enough,
we did some things that were out of the ordinary,
very out of the ordinary.
I can remember asking one of the
technicians to go out and buy aluminium foil.
Normally our procurement of spacecraft
hardware, supplies, materials,
are a much more sophisticated process.
We are all in bunny suits cutting continuous strips,
cleaning them with alcohol,
and then finally wrapping these on
all of our exterior cabling but, yeah,
same materials in your Christmas turkey.
I don't think we created any shortage, per se.
It may have been a local shortage in the local grocery store for a few
days until they reordered, right?
And now fast forward.
You know, did we know whether we'd done enough?
Amazingly, we heard all kinds of sounds.
If you had the right kind of antennas on your ears,
you could go out and hear what we record.
Whistlers - whistlers mean lightning.
That was the first detection of
lightning on a planet other than Earth. Much more intense.
There are lightning flashes at Jupiter that would go halfway from
the East Coast of the United States to the West Coast,
so it's fascinating what you hear in space.
When you're on a flyby mission, there ain't no second chance.
We were getting pictures - they were getting better and better,
and you could begin to see detail, as these moons got bigger.
You know, the dread you have is that you don't want to see a lot of
worlds that look like Earth's moon.
Let's face it - it's dull.
Our mind's eye was, "Oh, yeah, we're going to see battered ice balls,
"like the highlands of the moon, nothing but impact craters."
When we saw Callisto, basically it's totally hammered, right?
It's saturated with impact craters.
Ganymede shows a lot of interesting grooves and ridges,
but it's pretty blasted with impact craters.
And then as we went into the inner two...
You could not see craters on either one of them.
Well, this was encouraging,
because now we think maybe this
mission is going to find a lot of diversity.
billiard ball-smooth icy crust of Europa, with cracks in it,
and what looked like plates of ice
that might be moving relative to each other.
The best explanation for that is that there's a thick ocean of
liquid water, salty water, underneath that icy crust.
More ocean water than on the entire Earth.
Probably two or three times.
It's the largest ocean in the solar system.
And a moon around - going round Jupiter.
And then, of course, kind of the
show stopper for Voyager, we get to Io.
Io, of course. Io was the star of the show,
and we didn't learn that until after the encounter.
Everyone had gone home, and Linda Morabito,
an engineer whose job was to find
out the positioning and the orbit of the
spacecraft, noticed some bumps on images of Io.
I was on the mission as a mission navigator,
and our job involved just looking
back over the shoulder of the spacecraft
to say OK, one more picture of the realm of Jupiter.
So it wasn't high-priority work.
It was an optical navigation image,
and Linda saw this strange thing on the limb.
An enormous object emerged.
Enormous. And the first thing I said to myself - "What is that?!"
And I'm like, "It looks like another satellite
"in the picture, emerging from behind Io."
An object that size, at that range, at that distance,
would have been seen from Earth. It was sufficiently large.
I felt, with certainty - it was the only thing I knew -
that I was seeing something that had never been seen before.
This was an umbrella-shaped plume rising 250 kilometres
above the surface of Io, with volcanic activity.
I found the very first evidence of
active volcanism on a world beyond Earth.
It was so hard to believe that a little moon could have ten times
the volcanic activity of Earth,
which was the only known active volcanoes in the solar system,
were here on Earth. And then there's Io.
Suddenly we had realised this was a different journey we were on.
I wanted to say one other thing.
We've been saying that perhaps there's some funny way in which
Jupiter gobbles up all the things
that are coming in and doesn't let Io be hit by any.
Well, we aimed a spacecraft and went very close,
and had we missed, we would have made the first impact crater.
The flyby is basically a week-long affair that's 24 hours a day.
There will be a Voyager report in 30 seconds.
Instant science, because there's going to be a press conference that
night. This picture comes down,
and you've got three hours to figure
out what's going on and then tell the world about it.
No pressure there, right?
The confines of being a piece of biology got in the way of that.
I mean, you got hungry, you got tired, you know,
you had to go to the bathroom.
I mean, you're going to miss something.
But you don't want to miss anything,
because every 48 seconds a new image would come down.
No-one got any sleep during one of
these flybys when the spacecraft would go zooming past.
The photo labs were working day and night,
and people were sleeping in their cars.
It was just way too exciting to sleep.
This is the first picture ever of Jupiter's ring.
Jupiter was really just wonderful.
It was just discovery after discovery.
Jupiter was a game changer.
Jupiter reset all the registers.
Now we're really up for something.
And to know that this was just the
very, very beginning of this journey.
If we're blown away by Jupiter, just wait until we get to Saturn.
Voyager, to me, was Homeric.
It was years of passing across the solar system from one planet to the
other, and then it was a week or two of frenzied activity and discovery
and conquest, and then it was, well,
back in the boats, oars in the water,
and then on to the next conquest.
My father was Carl Sagan, and my mother is Linda Salzman Sagan,
and she's writer and an artist,
and she designed the iconic Pioneer plaque. She actually drew it,
and she's the one who got all of the
greetings for the Voyager Golden Record.
I like to think of her that she kind of put together a choir of voices of
greetings to the stars.
OVERLAPPING VOICES IN VARIOUS LANGUAGES
My parents wanted a child
to have one of the voices, and they just came to me one day and said,
"Nick, if you'd like to leave a message to aliens,
"if they happen to exist, what would you like to say to them?"
Hello from the children of planet Earth.
Oh, "Hello from the children of planet Earth,"
that's what I would say to aliens.
They loved that, and said, "Great, let's record you."
It's a bit of a blur.
The only thing I know that I
remember from that time is those knobs and
the little recording level that goes into the red if you speak too much,
'70s kind of...
So, I remember that, and I remember watching the needle move as I spoke
and seeing, like, where it... "Oh, that got close to the red,
"but that actually didn't go into the red. OK, that's probably good."
And that was that. And then I, you know,
drank my apple juice and went back to my books.
It was really not until considerably later that the enormity of what that
meant actually hit me.
The reason I was chosen was not because I'm something special.
I happened to be there at the right time, at the right place,
and people knew that I speak Arabic,
-so I was lucky.
-I said, "Why me?" They said,
"Because you speak fluent Portuguese."
I didn't get any instructions about
what to say except that it needs to be short.
The greetings to the universe are almost like proto tweets,
the first tweets - keep it short, keep it simple.
It's not like there's a rule book for what you should say when you're
greeting the universe.
Paz e felicidade todos.
Which means peace and happiness to everybody.
It seemed like a safe thing to say if you ran across some aliens,
rather than saying, "Take me to your leader," or whatever.
Because the equipment is cold, the spaceship is inanimate,
even the record itself is metal,
and I just wanted my voice to convey warmth and to make contact.
SHE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE
Greetings to our friends in the sky.
We long to meet you someday.
There is some piece of me that is a traveller on that ship.
It's just gone, it's just going, it continues to go.
It's going to keep going. When I'm long, long gone, it'll keep going.
And it's like a little piece of magic.
Hello from the children of planet Earth.
# In your mind you have capacities you know
# To telepath messages through the vast unknown
# Please close your eyes
# And concentrate with every thought you think
# Upon the recitation we're about to sing
# Calling occupants of interplanetary craft... #
I'd like to know the answer - are we alone?
I'd like to know the answer to that question.
There has to be other civilisations.
The numbers just compel it.
It would be almost statistically impossible for there not to be
other life forms and other life forms that have
evolved to a state of intelligence and beyond.
# Calling occupants of interplanetary craft... #
I'll tell you, I think that intelligent life,
if we can include ourselves in that categorisation,
is so prevalent that I'll bet you, at this very instant,
there are two people, probably one male and one female,
having exactly the same conversation that you and I are having right now.
They're probably trying to contact us at this very minute.
I predict, passing through this room right now,
radio messages that we could detect with equipment we could build
if we knew where to aim that
detector and what frequency to tune to.
And it's right here in this room, and that's mind-boggling.
You know, they're here, they're right in the room right now.
The big division with
extraterrestrial life is not space, it's time.
It depends on how long civilisations last,
because you've got to get them to overlap for us to communicate.
In our galaxy, our sun is relatively young.
The galaxy is about 12 billion years old.
Our sun's 4.5 billion years old.
There are many stars that are a lot older.
Therefore, you could imagine some civilisation around such a star that
might have watched our Earth form over the last four and a half
billion years. Well, over that last four and a half billion years,
the only evidence of intelligent life would have been in the last 50
or 60 years, by watching Star Trek
or I Love Lucy or whatever signals we sent out.
So, even if someone told you, look at that star,
and then look at the third rock from that star,
and that's where you're going to find life, there's only a 50 year
period over five billion years, almost,
where you'd be able to find intelligent life.
If we're alone, then we're truly unique,
and how did that happen? And why us?
And how are we so special and yet in such a kind of far-flung,
humdrum part of the universe?
And if we're not alone, how did we all get here,
and can we learn about ourselves by these other groups out there?
What are they like? And are they the
creatures of our dreams or our nightmares?
I think what's going to save us is
that interstellar travel is much harder
than we think, and we're safe for quite a long time from the aliens,
cos they don't know how to travel very far either.
We're all sort of stuck on the planets we've got.
Jupiter to Saturn went just like that. It was really quick.
We started off with images that were probably no better than what you can
get from the ground, and then it keeps getting better and better and
better as you get closer and closer.
What are we going to see when we get really close?
Having seen Saturn in your telescope with the rings,
just looking like these little tiny ears on either side,
we're now seeing detail and the beauty of Saturn's rings,
looking almost like the grooves on a phonograph record.
The rings of Saturn. What are they?
Billions of icy particles, some the size of the house.
They're enormous, much wider than many Earths strung together,
but less than a kilometre thick.
We get there and we find that it's a blizzard of features throughout the
rings, and it got very complex.
We'd become junkies.
This is how you become a planetary flyby junkie,
because you've gone through one of them,
and you just know it's the greatest
feeling and you want to keep doing it again and again.
At some point,
perhaps a year or so from now,
it may be possible to put all this into perspective,
but right at the moment,
I cannot recall being in such a state of euphoria for any previous
planetary encounter, including our two
remarkable Voyager encounters at Jupiter.
The largest moon of Saturn, Titan, is the most extraordinary place.
There is a dense methane atmosphere
where a complex organic chemistry has
been going on for perhaps billions of years.
And we are in a moment of extraordinary discovery.
We had both spacecraft programmed to do identical mission at Saturn,
and that was the prime mission.
And it involved Titan.
There's a huge amount of scientific
interest in Titan because many people
think that early in our own history our own planet may have been like
that. So, if you want to understand the starting conditions,
go study Titan.
If Voyager 1 was successful at Titan,
Voyager 2, which is nine months behind going to Saturn,
would be free to continue to Uranus and to go on to Neptune.
But it depended upon Voyager 1 succeeding at Titan.
Because Voyager 1 had to be in a
certain place in order to pass Titan,
it couldn't go on to Uranus and Neptune.
There was just no way to bend the trajectory to go anywhere else.
Voyager 2 would have done exactly
that same thing if Voyager 1 had failed.
We would have gone like this. No more planets.
That would have been really tough. You're going to try for Titan again
and give up two other worlds, Uranus and Neptune.
So, there was a lot of pressure on Voyager 1.
Mostly what we looked at was a giant
ball of brown smog with some sort of
electric blue hazes above it.
Titan did not reveal itself to the cameras of Voyager.
But the radio signal from the spacecraft passed through the
atmosphere of the planet and that gave them
a measure of the pressure at the
surface and also the temperature at the surface.
And so we learned a lot about Titan from that radio signal.
We had gathered what we could with Voyager spacecraft.
Shortly after that,
Nasa headquarters agreed that we
should continue with Voyager 2 on its Uranus trajectory.
So Voyager 1 had succeeded.
We almost didn't have that mission to Uranus and Neptune if not
for the success of Voyager 1 at Titan.
We're getting pictures and other data back from Voyager 2,
but at some point in time it had to go behind the planet.
And that blocks us from getting radio signals to the Earth.
And that happened to be in the middle of the night.
It was a period of time, several hours that everybody knows
we're going to be out of contact with the spacecraft.
Everybody's expecting to pop champagne corks and say,
"Hey, we made it!" And all the data's on the tape recorder because
it couldn't be transmitted to the Earth.
And instead, it popped out of the
other side and there's all these crazy
error signals coming from the spacecraft.
Something bad has happened.
Something happened right around the ring plane crossing.
And the images that were coming back were blank.
People thought maybe it crashed into the rings of Saturn.
Is this it? Is it dead?
Ladies and gentlemen, we can start the briefing.
I wanted to make a very brief statement.
We do have a problem on board the Voyager 2 spacecraft.
The spacecraft has a problem.
The scan platform operating mechanism is not operating properly.
To make sure we understand where we're headed,
the following instruments are mounted on the platform -
the wide angle camera, the narrow angle camera,
the infrared instrument,
the ultraviolet instrument and the photopolarimeter.
Yeah, that was the darkest, the darkest day of the whole mission.
There is circumstantial evidence...
I came into the auditorium and there
was just gloom on everybody's face....
You're beginning to speculate.
I quickly learned what had happened.
The scan platform had frozen.
A frozen scan platform could be a fatal, crippling event.
We have our speakers up...
The rest of the Saturn mission and Uranus and Neptune were dead,
and seeing everything that we were planning just gone.
Just suddenly gone.
The problem is not with the camera,
it's with the articulated platform that moves all of the instruments.
Our cameras, as far as we know, are working just fine.
It's just that we're taking lots of pictures of black space.
All of the science that we had hoped to do on Uranus and Neptune,
there was no other spacecraft that were going to be going there.
It was up to Voyager to do it, and all of a sudden it looked as
though Voyager is not going to do it. It was devastating, it was.
It took a couple of days while the engineering team went to work
diagnosing the problem.
It turns out the scan platform has small motors to rotate it.
We, of course, wanted to look at lots of places,
so we had the thing looking at lots of places.
And the lubrication wasn't adequate, and it just jammed.
It was frozen sort of like a car stuck in the snow.
You tried to go forward or backward a little bit and keep working on
it and try to get it out.
And that's what we did with the scan platform.
We would try to push it a little bit in one direction and it would yield
a little bit, and then we'd push it in the other direction,
and it would yield a little bit more,
and then we kept doing that back and forth, back and forth.
And, finally, that was enough to get the lubrication into the gears.
It was freed up. And back came the spacecraft and back came the imaging
system and there was Saturn on exit.
MUSIC PLAYS: Us and Them by Pink Floyd
We're looking at the shadow of Saturn on the rings,
and it was clearly from this wild, crazy angle.
Wow. Holy cow, we're on the other side of Saturn.
# And them
# And after all
# We're only ordinary men... #
We felt like we were there.
Nobody even thought about it.
Voyager was part of us. We.
# And you... #
All of planetary exploration to me is a story about longing.
It's a longing to know ourselves.
It's a longing to understand the significance of our own existence.
It's a longing to communicate, to say to the universe, "We're here."
You know, "Know us." You know, "Where are you?"
# "Forward," he cried from the rear
# And the front rank died... #
We have intelligent life on our own planet, dolphins and whales,
that we cannot communicate with.
Other than tricks for fish.
It's a little conceited to think that, you know,
it's going to be like Star Trek and that we'll immediately sit down for
tea together or something.
It's not that... It's not going to be that simple.
The Voyager Record has a set of pictures on it that depicts our
civilisation. But we only had the ability to do about 100 pictures.
That was as much data as we could send, so that was kind of hard.
It was a process of distillation.
You can't describe the Earth in 100 pictures.
You can't describe the Earth in 1,000 pictures.
But what art is about is taking something
that's small that can represent the whole.
We thought it was very important to pick some pictures of humans nude on
the record to show just what our anatomy was really like.
Nasa had been seriously criticised about the Pioneer plaque.
There were actually letters to the
editor in newspapers saying that Nasa was sending smut to space.
How are we going to show pictures of
naked humans without it looking salacious?
And the answer to that was,
"Why don't you put a pregnant woman in the picture?"
Because pregnant women are not considered salacious,
not appealing sexually.
So that's what we did.
And I figured if this doesn't get past Nasa,
nothing's getting past Nasa.
And I guess the answer was nothing was getting past Nasa,
because it was the only picture that they made us take out.
Now it's five years of cruising out to Uranus.
Uranus will be the most remote object yet visited by a spacecraft,
and it's so remote that it was not even known until 200 years ago.
It's a great distance out there, and
if we'd launched directly from Earth,
it would have taken 30 years to get there, so we were
very fortunate that we could swing by Jupiter and Saturn on our way.
I've been trying to figure this thing out for the past 25 years,
and it's very frustrating in a
telescope to look at that tiny little disc,
so the next few days are going to be very exciting.
Once we got beyond Saturn,
essentially the engineers threw out the rule book and said,
"How are we going to make this work?
"How are we going to take pictures of planets this far from the sun?"
Voyager was the first of a class of Nasa spacecraft that could be
reprogrammed. They could take what was on the computer and just wipe it
away and give it a whole new set of software.
They trained the spacecraft to pirouette like a ballet dancer.
Basically, you want to take picture of that thing,
and it's going past you really fast,
so you spin the whole spacecraft and follow it like this.
And so, even though it was darker at Uranus and really dark at Neptune,
you could leave the shutter open without smearing,
and that was just beautiful.
We had all of the rich set of
goodies from Jupiter and from Saturn,
but Uranus was unknown.
We just had the one spacecraft, so
we were more or less just flying blind,
and we didn't get a second chance.
It was like taking something that was almost fictional,
almost mythological, and then seeing it as a real object.
The spacecraft flew through that system like a bull's-eye,
cos Uranus is tilted on its side,
with this beautiful aquamarine blue methane atmosphere.
And all these pictures, every single one of them was like, "Whoa!"
You could hear people just... "Whoa!" And everybody would be doing
something and somebody would go, "Whoa!"
And everybody would turn and look up - "Oh, my gosh, look at that!"
There was no internet, there was no
news stream going out live to CNN.
The only way to experience that
sensation of being one of only a small
group of people who saw a point of light become a world,
the only way to experience it was to be in that room.
Well, just about two minutes ago,
Voyager 2 passed through its closest approach to Uranus.
The new ring is
right here. Now, I don't...
You're telling me you can't see it.
-Dr Soderblom, as you whizzed through your explanation,
I couldn't put it all together.
Could you try that again?
-Slower, and a few more details.
-I thought that was pretty slow.
Every time we arrived at a new planet, there were always surprises,
even though we had gotten a lot smarter.
For instance, before Voyager,
all the magnetic fields have the
magnetic pole near the rotation axis of the planet.
And that was true for Jupiter, it was true for Saturn,
and then we flew by Uranus, and the pole was near the equator.
There's been a lot of speculation about the magnetosphere of Uranus.
Would there be one? What would it be like?
And the magnetosphere of Uranus is far more weird and wonderful...
-We found the planet's tipped on its side,
but the magnetic field is then tipped relative to the spin axis,
so you have this huge contortion in
the magnetic field as the planet spins around.
Why on Earth the magnetic field was so messed up, we had no idea.
At the time, the Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by Uranus,
one pole was pointing at the sun.
At that point in its orbit, its atmosphere shuts down,
so the planet didn't look exciting,
and part of that is Uranus itself holding its secrets back.
That had to be, I guess, one of the...
Well, disappointments, in that
Uranus was not more photogenic than it was.
It was actually pretty blah.
Uranus itself was not the character that Saturn and Jupiter were.
The big stars of the Uranus encounter were actually the moons.
The gravity assist aiming point at
Uranus just happened to be pretty close to the orbit of Miranda.
If Uranus had been the last stop,
the scientists might have wanted to go to a larger moon.
I don't see how anything could have
been any more interesting than Miranda.
It looked like a jumbled up mess.
This moon looked like it had been
ripped to pieces and then just sort of shoved back together again.
Whoa, come look at this.
Going up to the screen and pointing and saying, "Did you...?
-"Look at that, look at that."
-Nobody was ready for Miranda.
There were enormous cliffs and gashes.
One of them, you can see the edge of a cliff.
It's got to be ten kilometres tall.
The gravity on Miranda is so weak that if you jumped off that cliff,
you could read the newspaper on the way down.
But when you hit the bottom, you'll still be going at 100mph,
so it probably wouldn't...
It would be the last newspaper you read.
We were just about to present all our results,
we were all about to have the big final finale press conference,
and we came back from breakfast,
and I went to go watch the shuttle being launched.
We have main engines start.
Four, three, two, one...
And liftoff. Liftoff of the 25th space shuttle mission,
and it has cleared the tower.
And we thought, "OK, great, we'll watch the shuttle launch,
"and then we'll go to the press conference."
But, of course, that was Challenger.
Engines throttling up. Three engines now at 104%.
-Challenger, go with throttle up.
-Roger, go with throttle up.
People were just, like, astonished, just gasping like, "Oh, my...
"Did you see that? Did it really blow up?"
Because we had stopped in our meeting so everyone could watch it,
and there was just silence, people were crying.
Well, what can you say?
You knew right away that a bunch of people were dead.
-..reports vehicle exploded.
And then, of course, they showed
replays and replays and replays over and over and over again.
We have no downlink.
OK, everybody, stay off the telephones,
make sure you maintain all your data, start pulling it together.
The Challenger accident happened as we were receding from Uranus.
I have this vivid memory of picture after picture of the crescent Uranus
coming back and the replay of the Challenger explosion
and it was just devastating.
-Today is a day for mourning and remembering.
Nancy and I are pained to the core about the tragedy of the shuttle
Challenger. We know we share this
pain with all the people of our country.
This is truly a national loss.
I know it's hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this
happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery.
It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons.
The future doesn't belong to the faint-hearted.
It belongs to the brave.
Report from the flight indicate
the impact in the water approximately
28.64 degrees north, 80.28 degrees west.
During these close approach time periods,
we would have hundreds of reporters come to JPL and it was a great
news atmosphere and when the
Challenger exploded... everybody just left.
It was really a very sad time.
A sad ending to another great mission.
Those cosmic questions we hope to learn by sending our machines out
are the very same questions that you
and I and every child has asked themselves. "Where do we come from?"
"Are we alone?" "What's the universe made of?"
"How will it end?" All of these
basic questions are the questions that drive science.
I do cosmology.
I study the beginning and end of the universe and some people say,
"What's that good for?" And I always say to them, "You know,
"you don't ask what's a Mozart symphony good for,
"or a Picasso painting."
But science somehow seems, in order to be useful for people,
it has to produce technology.
But the beautiful thing about science is the ideas.
There it was, just sitting out on the edge of our solar system,
waiting for somebody to come out and appreciate its beauty,
just waiting for the day that humans would get out there and go, "Wow!"
Neptune was photogenic right from the beginning.
I had been taking pictures of
Neptune from the ground where we couldn't see very much. You know,
in my head imagining what it might look like and seeing that turned
into reality, it's a rush.
Looking at this blue, bright blue orb, it was evocative of the Earth,
which was bizarre for the last planet that we were flying by.
I was a meticulous log taker and I would make little notations in these
logs and I would draw little pictures and you can see,
"What's this little dark spot?"
"Bright clouds." I'm like, "Wow!"
Wow, exclamation point!
And I'd draw pictures and arrows.
The most surprising thing was a giant dark spot.
Nobody had any idea that would be there.
It's huge, it's like a hole in the planet.
So we called it the great dark spot
because we're not very original when it comes to names.
We had to basically make a forecast of the storms on Neptune in order to
point the cameras during the last day, and at the same time,
there was a hurricane off the
East Coast of the US and the weather forecasters were
trying to forecast that hurricane.
But they were trying to forecast it 12 hours in advance,
and they were having a lot of
trouble because the storm kept changing position, and we were just
calmly plotting points on graph paper and then say
"OK, two weeks from now this storm's going to be right here."
And it usually was.
At Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus,
the goal was to do a flyby that
would take the spacecraft on to the next planet.
When it came to Neptune,
we knew that that was the last
planet we were going to fly by and so we
could take a different trajectory.
This allowed us to get a really
spectacular view of the rings and then
look back on the system in a way that was quite beautiful.
Think about imaging the rings of Neptune.
They have reflectivity which is
twice as dark as soot and the light that's
falling on them is 1,000 times
fainter than on Earth, so you have one 1000th
of the light and you're trying to
image something which is twice as dark
as soot against a jet black background.
More than one ring could be seen, even in the raw images,
the so-called ring arcs,
and it seemed reasonable that this was indeed the lost arc that our
imaging team raiders were looking for.
Now you're going to turn on me, are you?!
We knew at Neptune we wanted a close flyby of Triton,
which was a huge world and a retrograde orbit around Neptune.
If you looked at them on the way in, they weren't lined up.
One's up here and one's down here, so what are you going to do?
Well, there was a way to fly over
the north pole very close to Neptune to
bend the spacecraft so it would go down.
That meant getting to within just a
few thousand miles of the cloud tops,
skimming the surface, and it had to hit that, you know, exactly right.
There was a lot of concern that we didn't know enough about Neptune's
atmosphere to really be sure that the spacecraft would not tumble.
Just a slight error in the
calculations and instead of skimming across the
cloud tops, you're skimming into the clouds and the spacecraft burns up.
Slight error the other way, you go a little too far,
you don't bend enough,
maybe you run right into Triton and crash and that's the end of the
mission. You don't have enough time,
you have to make your last, best guess, hit the send button...
It would have been just fascinating to be hanging
on to that spacecraft, right?
Skimming over these beautiful blue
cloud tops of Neptune, and then as you come
over the pole of Neptune, seeing that big moon Triton rise up.
After several billion miles of journey, to get us to within a few
kilometres of where we need to be, it's just absolutely remarkable.
You know, threading an incredible needle.
The Southern hemisphere of Triton
is entirely covered with nitrogen ice
and as we flew past, then we go again,
as we flew past, we were able to look down at
markings on the surface of the polar cap.
We were putting together a mosaic of Triton's globe,
but we couldn't get things to line up quite right.
Some of the dark streaks, two in particular, would not line up.
He's, like, just scratching his head, like,
"I have no idea what's going on here."
This guy's one of the world's experts on anything having to do
with planets and moons and he can't figure this out.
The only crazy idea that's left is eruptions.
I said, "Well, let's put it in a stereo viewer" -
red and blue glasses.
And the images fused into a
three-dimensional model and up popped these guys.
And I said, "Holy moly!"
And so we knew what we had.
These plumes. Black geysers spewing out this stuff.
The plumes extending out of the surface for, like, kilometres.
We were seeing eruptions on a world
which should have been just a frozen cinder.
This is too much.
The last place we would have expected to see further dynamics,
further eruptions, was in a moon this remote in the solar system.
So there's solar-driven geysers on a
satellite that's 30 astronomical units from the sun.
Who would have thought?
Just because an idea's crazy it's not necessarily wrong.
This was the last planet Voyager would explore before it headed on
for the rest of its journey and so I think the times together as a team,
the times to look at the pictures, talk,
meet together, became more precious.
I was passing by the secretary's desk and she said,
"Oh, Candy, there's a reporter that wants to talk to you."
And he said,
"The countdown clock just went from
"minus, counting down,
"to counting up.
"Voyager's now leaving Neptune."
And he said, "How does that make you feel?"
And in that moment, I dissolved into tears.
After the spacecraft went past,
I turned around and looked back and there's this beautiful crescent,
Neptune and Triton, and people
realised that's the end of the planetary
part of Voyager, that's the last port of call,
the last thing that we'll see in our solar system is now behind us.
And it went from the Voyager planetary mission
to the Voyager interstellar mission.
We could have enhanced the colour a
bit to make a somewhat prettier picture,
but out of respect to the Voyager spacecraft,
we decided to show it to you just as it is.
So this was Voyager's farewell to us and it's our farewell to you.
The way I looked at it was, "See, we did something really great."
Very, very successful mission.
A little weepy. I mean,
there was a lot of energy put into this mission.
We have ignition and we have liftoff.
Years of intense effort.
It was the end of a sentimental journey.
We did it. We pulled it off.
And that's important. It is.
MUSIC PLAYS: Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry
# And he could play a guitar just like a-ringing a bell
# Go go Go Johnny Go... #
We had a big party at JPL.
Chuck Berry was there, so that was a good send off for Voyager.
# Go go Go Johnny Go
# Go Johnny B Goode... #
Rock star moment and sail on, Voyager.
And I'm going to go and get some
sleep or maybe I'll do a little more dancing. Thank you very much.
Meanwhile, Voyager 1 is still kind
of cruising out there, getting farther
and farther out, and a number of folks on the team,
including Carl Sagan,
had this idea that before we had to shut the cameras down let's turn
around, look back towards the sun, and let's take a picture of our
solar system unlike any that had ever been taken before.
And there was actually opposition to it.
They just didn't want to do it.
They couldn't get their heads around what would be the point of taking a
picture of the Earth and Jupiter and so on because they're just going to
be little points of light.
So Carl being Carl actually went all
the way to the Nasa administrator and
got the Nasa administrator to direct
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to take this series of pictures.
Absolutely zero science in it, absolutely none.
People have been taking selfies of our planet for as long as the space
programme's been going on.
No-one had ever taken one like this.
And they ended up on Valentine's Day, 1990,
taking this beautiful family portrait.
When we did our portrait of each of the planets,
I was the first person to look at he pictures,
and I knew every blemish and so I could pretty
quickly go, "Blemish, blemish, blemish," and I thought,
"Well, where's the Earth? How could we...?" You know.
And then I realised there was a lot of...
There were a lot of streaks of light in that image
and I realised finally that the
Earth was sitting in one of those rays of light.
You know, I just sat there for a while just kind of realising,
"Wow, that's the Earth," you know.
"That's Voyager looking back at the Earth."
And so this is a different kind of milestone than the scientific
milestones we've had.
One, it is really symbolic...
I'm an imaging scientist so I first realised
"Oh, this didn't turn out the way we thought it was going to turn out,"
and my first impulse is to take my
hand and wipe away the dust because there was some dust on it.
Well, one of the pieces of dust that I wanted to wipe
away was the Earth!
But it didn't matter because in the hands of Carl he turned it into an
allegory on the human condition.
And the next slide...
The Earth in a sunbeam.
In this colour picture, you can see
that it is in fact less than a pixel,
and this is where we live, on a blue dot.
On that blue dot,
that's where everyone you know and everyone you ever heard of and every
human being who ever lived...
lived out their lives.
I think this perspective underscores
our responsibility to preserve and
cherish that blue dot, the only home we have.
My father talks about this little,
tiny speck in this vast cosmic night,
and that we're part of something bigger
and we're also, you know, alone.
There's a great thing where he says, "There's no sign that any
"help is going to come here to save us from ourselves. It's up to us."
After Neptune, the project continued,
but it continued in quite a different way.
The Voyagers didn't have any more encounters,
they were just sailing on out into interstellar space,
which people didn't really
understand how far that was going to be.
At the time we were designing Voyager, interstellar space,
where the boundary was, was totally unknown.
We had our eyes on an interstellar mission.
Are we going to push the spacecraft to get out of our solar system and
into the galaxy?
It was a shot in the dark because nobody knew how far.
-Voyager to Goldstone.
Please turn command modulation on at 1800.
Goldstone, copy, 1800 for command.
We know the sun has this
gravitational influence that goes way out,
almost halfway to the nearest star,
so in terms of gravity at the edge of the solar system,
it's going to take Voyager tens of thousands of years to get there.
But the magnetic field of the sun can only extend so far.
It's a bubble around our star.
We can see the bubbles round other stars out there.
Where's our bubble end?
Where does the influence of the sun give way to the galaxy?
We kept going, and years went by and years went by,
and we don't detect the interstellar medium.
Throughout the 1990s, still didn't find the edge of the bubble.
Throughout the 2000s, still didn't find the edge of the bubble.
And then finally Voyager 1, which is going the fastest,
which is the farthest,
started to see these funny things happen to the squiggly lines.
A crazy spike and everybody goes, "Oh, is that it?"
And then it goes back to normal.
And then there was just literally one magical day in August 2012 that
everything changed and it was like
it just popped out of the bubble.
Voyager 1 has left our solar system.
It's the first thing built by
humans that has left our solar system.
Now it's in interstellar space.
Major historic announcement by Nasa just a short time ago confirming the
Voyager as in the thing that
launched way back in 1977, exploring the moons, exploring the planets,
well, it has entered interstellar space.
We've slipped the outermost grasp
of our solar system with Voyager 1,
the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space.
It's a wonderful achievement, actually, when you think about it,
it's as historic as our first step out of our bubble, which, you know,
has been around all the planets and
around the Earth essentially forever,
and now finally some little thing
that we have built has left that bubble
and is in the space between the stars.
We all feel like Voyager has carried a bit of us into the galaxy.
There's never going to be another mission like it.
It was the first and last of its own kind.
Is the universe any different than it was then?
No. But are we different?
The thrill of the discoveries,
completing the Grand Tour, I mean, man,
our child just made it.
Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 will be orbiting the centre of the Milky Way
galaxy with all the stars and every 200 and, roughly,
50 million years it will complete an
orbit around the centre of the galaxy.
There's no wind, water, rain, weathering.
There's no planets it's going to run into,
there's no asteroid belts or comets that they're going to run into.
And over billions of years, they're predicted to remain pretty intact.
We're the generation that sent
something out into space that's not only
going to outlive us, it's going to outlive our star.
Four billion years from now, when our sun turns into a red giant,
Voyager's still going to be trucking out there through the stars,
and the songs of our time are going to be out there.
Chuck Berry is still out there.
We'll still be out there.
When the Voyager's power sources go dead and when
the spacecraft can no longer send back any useful information,
that's really the point at which the Golden Record becomes the primary
function of those missions,
still floating somewhere in
interstellar space, completing the last part of the mission.
All of the human tragedies and the
greatest triumphs in our existence as a
species, all of that's going to be
forgotten and the universe doesn't care about it.
But it is possible that at least one thing we've created will be
out there, and who knows, maybe someday, with an
infinitesimally small chance, another being might
find it and at least know of our existence.
It's highly unlikely, but it's not
impossible and that small possibility
surely gives us hope.
We will continue to get signals back from Voyager and we will continue to
try and get signals back from Voyager as long as we can.
There will be a day
when the antennas are listening to Voyager
and we don't hear anything.
And that will be the day that
we stop communications with Voyager.
And that will be very sad.
Because it will have gone silent and
we really won't have a chance to say goodbye.
# We've won the race
# We've claimed our place forever
# Cold and lost in space
# We've won the race
# We've claimed our place forever
# Cold and lost in space
# I've found this inner dance
# Our thoughts will start to fray
# Forever cold and lost in space
# I feel I'm going down
# There's no more solid ground
# Forever cold and lost in space... #
Twelve billion miles away a tiny spaceship is leaving our solar system and entering the void of deep space. It is the first human-made object ever to do so. Slowly dying within its heart is a plutonium generator that will beat for perhaps another decade before the lights on Voyager finally go out. But this little craft will travel on for millions of years, carrying a Golden Record bearing recordings and images of life on Earth.
The story of Voyager is an epic of human achievement, personal drama and almost miraculous success. Launched 16 days apart in 1977, the twin Voyager space probes have defied all the odds, survived countless near misses and almost 40 years later continue to beam revolutionary information across unimaginable distances. With less computing power than a modern hearing aid, they have unlocked the stunning secrets of our solar system.
This film tells the story of these magnificent machines, the men and women who built them and the vision that propelled them farther than anyone could ever have hoped.