Voyager 1 Has Left the Building, Entered Interstellar Space
(Cross-posted from my Snip, Burn, Solder Blog, since I thought Mojonauts would be interested in this giant leap for nerdkind, too.)
The New York Times has a very charming, informative piece on the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which has been confirmed to have left the influence of our brave and noble Sun, and entered the depthless black between the stars.
The piece--and the ongoing work of both the Voyager spacecrafts[*] (which were only supposed to run for about 4 years, their original mission wrapping up in the early 1980s) and team (most of whom seem to be pulling AARP discounts)--is an excellent meditation on progress and age and the simple fact that, for most of us, doing something great is not about a single dazzling moment, but about continuing to plug away, day after day, decade upon decade, until the many small success add up to something bizarre and wonderful.
The 12-person Voyager staff was long ago moved from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory campus to cramped quarters down the street, next to a McDonald’s. In an interview last month at Voyager’s offices, Suzanne R. Dodd, the Voyager project manager, said that when she attended meetings in Building 264, she kept a low profile in deference to the Mars team.
“I try to stay out of the elevator and take the stairs,” Ms. Dodd said. “They’re doing important work there, and I’ll only slow them down.”
Incidentally, the Voyager spacecrafts carry the "Golden Records"--analog phonograph records featuring sounds of Earth, as well as encoded photographs, and etched with pictograph instructions on how to play the cosmic record. Of the two dozen musical pieces included, only three are from the United States: A Navajo chant[**], Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," and Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was the Night—Cold Was the Ground."
Blind Willie Johnson, you've finally made it into interstellar space--on vinyl, and a gold record, no less! If that's not the American Dream, then we've got the wrong kind of Americans.
At any rate, all of this is especially resonant for me, because the Voyager crafts were put into space the year I was born. Slowly but surely, we're each getting somewhere. Amen.
[*] There are two, both launched in 1977. Voyager 1 has left the solar system; Voyager 2--which has been on a slightly different trajectory--is still on its way out. In the meantime, you can follow its various calibrations and adjustments via Twitter (I'm not joking, and *love* this Twitter account).
[**] Which I'm pretty sure translates to the repeated refrain "Be careful; these guys probably want your land."