I had the honor of attending an event at Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum to celebrate 40 years of the Voyager 1 & 2 spacecraft with NASA Social on September 5th. It was an incredible day learning about space, hearing first hand accounts from those who worked on the mission, and talking to others who were enthusiastic about attending the event.
I was really intimidated going into the event, knowing I’d be surrounded by absolute geniuses. I went to college for PR / marketing, science was never my best subject even in high school but the thing is I LOVE science (space especially). The education system places such an emphasis on grades you almost forget to find joy or importance in the love for learning. Post-college I’ve made an effort to pursue little passions / interests / hobbies like art and fashion. What I’ve come to find essential is giving myself the freedom to learn for fun without the end goal of being an expert or mastering a skill. It’s both refreshing and relieving to just enjoy the intake of new information, a really pure thing that almost essential to my humanity. The NASA event truly reminded me of this.
I have many favorite memories from the day. Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist, talking about the major discovery of active volcanoes being on Io (Jupiter’s moon). William Shatner, James Kirk on Star Treck, reading the winning message which would be sent into space “We offer friendship across the stars. You are not alone.” Suzanne Dodd, Voyager project manager, talking about working on the project as a first job out of college only to return to it much later as the project manager and how Voyager sparked excitement for future missions. Ann Druyan, creative director of the Voyager Interstellar Message, talking about the creation of The Golden Record which you have to read more about. There’s so much to it but The Love Story might be my favorite! You could also listen to the Beyond Podcast to learn more, Nicole was also at the event and will definitely be sharing some of the great conversations we had with the people I listed above.
What really stood out to me were the remarks from different people involved on the Voyager mission about what it meant and inspired. It represented a passion for exploration, for understanding our solar system / getting perspective on our place in it, for hope for the generations to come, and much more.
“And what greater might do we possess as human beings than our capacity to question and to learn?”
― Ann Druyan
I also want to shoutout Mike’s Maze in Massachusetts! They were at the event because their theme this year is Greetings from Earth, “An 8-acre message – visible from Space – has appeared on the surface of the pale blue dot know as Earth!”
I don’t want to misquote any of the fun facts about the significance of the missions so I’m going to share a few from NASA’s site which can be found here: https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/
- The Voyager mission was designed to take advantage of a rare geometric arrangement of the outer planets in the late 1970s and the 1980s which allowed for a four-planet tour for a minimum of propellant and trip time. This layout of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, which occurs about every 175 years, allows a spacecraft on a particular flight path to swing from one planet to the next without the need for large onboard propulsion systems.
- The spacecraft are controlled and their data returned through the Deep Space Network (DSN), a global spacecraft tracking system operated by JPL for NASA. DSN antenna complexes are located in California’s Mojave Desert; near Madrid, Spain; and in Tidbinbilla, near Canberra, Australia.
- The spacecraft are continuing to return data about interplanetary space and some of our stellar neighbors near the edges of the Milky Way.
- To accomplish their two-planet mission, the spacecraft were built to last five years. But as the mission went on, and with the successful achievement of all its objectives, the additional flybys of the two outermost giant planets, Uranus and Neptune, proved possible — and irresistible to mission scientists and engineers at the Voyagers’ home at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
- Eventually, between them, Voyager 1 and 2 would explore all the giant outer planets of our solar system, 48 of their moons, and the unique systems of rings and magnetic fields those planets possess.
- This narrow-angle color image of the Earth, dubbed ‘Pale Blue Dot’, is a part of the first ever ‘portrait’ of the solar system taken by Voyager 1.
I also really enjoyed the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in general and would highly recommend going (it’s free!) if you’re in Washington D.C!
Below is a slide show of some of my favorite images from the day.