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Voyager mission 40th anniversary special

Join us on a mission through the Solar System and out into interstellar space as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Voyager mission launch.

Right now Voyager 1 is gracefully gliding towards interstellar space at 61,500km/h, with the Voyager 2 probe following on behind it. Along their incredible 5.95-billion kilometre journey they have helped us better understand our neighbouring moons and planets, sent home beautiful images like the famous Pale Blue Dot, and delivered a message to any listening extra terrestrials on the Golden Record. August 20 marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of these iconic spacecraft and to celebrate we’re dedicating a week to the historic Voyager mission and their journey beyond our Solar System.

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You can find even more Voyager features in the new issue of BBC Focus magazine – find out more.

Mission timeline: Voyager’s landmark moments

Voyager 2 launches from Cape Canaveral in Florida © NASA
Voyager 2 launches from Cape Canaveral in Florida © NASA

From its launch in 1977 to becoming the first man-made object to leave the Solar System, the Voyager probes have made some incredible discoveries along their journey through space.

The making of the Voyager Golden Record

© NASA/JPL-Caltech
© NASA/JPL-Caltech

Still flying through and beyond our Solar System, the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes carry aboard with them a Golden Record, demonstrating the life and culture of planet Earth – see images of this iconic time capsule being made in 1977.

Voyager 1: a brief history of the interstellar spacecraft

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Voyager 1: boldly going where no spacecraft has gone before © NASA/JPL-Caltech

Launched into space in 1977 to study the outer planets, Voyager 1 has become the first man-made object to leave the Solar System. To celebrate its incredible achievement, we look back at the highlights of its epic journey.

A message to ET: 47 images from the Voyager Golden Record

The Voyager Golden Record © NASA/JPL-Caltech
The Voyager Golden Record © NASA/JPL-Caltech

Beyond our Solar System the Voyager 1 spacecraft carries a message to extra-terrestrial intelligence – here are some of the images on board.

The sweet sound of interstellar space

Voyager Captures Sounds of Interstellar Space (YouTube/NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

The sounds in this video were made by vibrations in the plasma, or ionised gas, surrounding Voyager 1, from October to November 2012 and April to May 2013. These vibrations were picked up by instruments on-board the Voyager, and then translated into sound waves so that we can listen in. Anyone hoping to hear extraterrestrial voices will be disappointed, though: the sound of interstellar space is a pulsing, rising whistle.

Where are all the active spacecraft in our Solar System?

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Since Sputnik 1 was launched in 1957, humans have sent thousands of spacecraft into the cosmos. There are currently around 50 active craft in our Solar System (not including miniaturised, amateur or commercial craft). Here’s where they are and what research they are doing in this infographic.


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