The Voyager 1 spacecraft is an unmanned probe of the outer solar system, originally planned as Mariner 11 of the Mariner program. It was launched on September 5, 1977 by NASA from Cape Canaveral aboard a Titan-Centaur rocket, slightly after its sister craft, Voyager 2, in an orbit that caused it to reach Jupiter first.
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3 Distance Travelled
4 Golden Record
5 See also
Jupiter and Saturn
Voyager 1 began photographing Jupiter in January 1979. Its closest approach to Jupiter was on March 5, 1979, and it finished photographing the planet in April.
The two Voyager spacecraft made a number of important discoveries about Jupiter and its satellites. The most surprising was the existence of sulfur volcanoes on Io, which had not been observed from the ground or by Pioneer 10 or 11.
The spacecraft went on to visit Saturn. Voyager 1's Saturn flyby occurred in November 1980, with the closest approach on November 12 when it came within 77,000 miles of the planet's cloud-tops. The craft detected complex structures in Saturn's rings, and studied the atmospheres of Saturn and Titan. Its orbit, designed to allow close study of Titan, took it out of the plane of the ecliptic, thus ending its planetary science mission.
As it heads for interstellar space, its instruments continue to study the solar system; Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists are using the plasma wave experiments aboard Voyager 1 and 2 to look for the heliopause. It was announced by NASA on Wednesday November 5, 2003 that scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab believe that Voyager passed the termination shock in February 2003. However some other scientists have expressed doubt (discussed in the journal Nature of November 6). The issue will not be resolved for some months as other data becomes available, since Voyager's solar-wind detector ceased functioning in 1990.
Voyager 1 is expected to keep on transmitting into the 2020s.
As of January 2004, Voyager 1 was at a distance of 13.5 billion kilometers (90.5 Astronomical Units or 12.5 light-hours) from the Sun. Voyager 1 is escaping the solar system at a speed of about 3.6 AU (19 light-minutes) per year.
Voyager 1 carries with it a golden record (Voyager Golden Record) that contains pictures and sounds of Earth, along with symbolic directions for playing the record. The contents of this record were selected by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan.