I have always been facinated with outer space. When I was a kid, I read countless articles and books on our moon, the planets, and the universe. At one point, I considered being an astronomer, but my love for weather won out. I guess I am still looking up to the sky!
There is one part of astronomy I am always wanting to know more about – deep space. I think many of us wonder what’s out there, past the solar system and beyond the Milky Way galaxy. NASA’s Deep Space Network continues to track several missions, ranging from a year to a few decades old. To me, the most fascinating program is Voyager. Launched in the late summer of 1977, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 continue to send data back to Earth. As of April 2012, Voyager 1 is the farthest traveled man-made object, now approximately 11.1 billion miles from Earth. Yes, billion with a “b.” Voyager 2, on a completely different path, is roughly 9 billion miles from Earth. To put these distances in perspective, it takes more than a half day’s time for the sun’s light to reach the spacecrafts. The primary objective of the Voyager program was to explore Jupiter and Saturn. Now, NASA is focused on collecting data from outside the solar system. Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 will head into the “interstellar medium,” a vast expanse at the edge of the sun’s reach.
Closer to home, NASA’s biggest objective presently is exploring Mars. Currently, there are two rovers on the planet and three orbiters. More missions are planned, and there is constant discussion of a manned program to the planet beginning in the 2030s. Personally, I won’t hold my breath, since travel time to the planet is nine months, and the mission would require an unbelievable amount of money. Still, it is fun to dream – what’s next?
Again, feel free to learn more about deep space operations by visiting the NASA website.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more from Beyond the Forecast…
This post was written by Nick Grunseth on August 16, 2012