One Giant Leap for MankindBy: Trevor Kennedy
There have been many great achievements by man over the last sixty years in regards to the final frontier, space. First man in space, 12 April 1961, Yuri Gagarin, first man on the moon, 21 July 1969, Neil Armstrong. But mankind is about to take one further step in its conquest of space, sending its technology out of our solar system in to interstellar space.
Voyager 1, launched 5 September 1977 is currently 11 billion miles (18 billion kms) away from Earth, travelling at 38,000 miles per hour (.00005 light speed, 61,000 kms). At that speed it would take less than 40 minutes for Voyager to travel the circumference of the earth and less than four hours to reach the moon.
Some day very soon, Voyager will be the first manmade object to leave our Solar System, all with technology developed in 1977, two years after Bill Gates and Paul Allen formed Microsoft and one year after Steve Wosnik created Apple 1.
Ed Stone, the Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology was quoted as saying, “The latest data indicate that we are clearly in a new region where things are changing more quickly. It is very exciting. We are approaching the Solar System's frontier.”
Voyager is now detecting dense, high-energy particles generated by exploding stars in distant solar systems. In the last month the particle count has increased significantly and is seen as a first indicator of reaching the edge of the Heliosphere and enters the heliopause, which is traditionally considered to be true outer space.
Working out when Voyager actually exits our solar system is not a straight forward task, complicated by the fact it takes over 16 hours, for Voyager to send back a message to earth. The final determination is likely to be when the magnetic field lines, currently running from east to west switch to a north-south direction. But even when that occurs a few weeks of number crunching by the scientist will be needed to confirm the switch.
It is expected that Voyager 1 will continue to explore interstellar space through to 2020, when it is estimated that its batteries will be drained. Still, it will continue to travel at speed away from Earth, until it hits a planet, star, or UFO.
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