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Voyager 1 close to exiting the solar system

December 6, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Somewhere out there in outer space, an aging explorer is still hard at work, sending information to its bosses back on Earth. And the longest operating spacecraft in history is about to go where no manmade object has ever gone before.

"You can think of it as a sailing ship going to the new world, and not knowing where it's going," said Suzanne Dodd.

Dodd is the project manager for NASA's Voyager Spacecraft Mission, and she's talking about Voyager 1, which is just about to exit our solar system.

"Voyager has really been a mission of discovery, and it continues to be a mission of discovery on the environment of the sun and hopefully soon on the environment of interstellar space," she said.

Voyager 1 is an explorer, but it's also something of an artifact. It carries a collection of photographs and music. But what once inspired a scene in "Star Trek" is based on a very real mission: to move past our solar system and into the unknown.

"The spacecraft is really like an ambassador for our planet," said Dodd.

Voyager 1 and 2 were both launched in 1977. Along the way, Voyager 1 took remarkable photographs of Jupiter and Saturn.

"Voyager is leading the way, deep into space, leaving our solar system home behind," said Edward Stone.

Stone is the chief scientist for the Voyager mission and he was one of the original members of on the project.

"It's very special as a scientist to be on a mission which is still discovering things after so many years because it's going new places," he said.

We've all experienced the frustration of our modern cellphones dropping a call, but the Voyager 1 has never dropped a call. Its signal is still strong as ever, even after being in outer space for 30 years and being 11 billion miles from Earth.

"It's a very long-lived battery, and will have enough electrical power to keep everything running until about 2020," said Stone.


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