The Voyager Program is the name given to a JPL project to develop and deploy two identical space probes to survey the outer planets in our solar system; Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. The Program was conceived and funded by NASA.
Both Voyager probes are 815 kg, unmaned devices powered by radioisotope generators. Their instrumentation consists of high-gain and low gain antennas, wide-angle and narrow-angle cameras, an ultra-violet spectrometer and a magnetometer.
The Voyager probes were built to (ideally) remain operational and continue transmitting until around 2020, because of lower power consumption during the mission Voyager 2 is expected to continue transmitting until around 2030.
A golden grammophone record was placed aboard each of the Voyager probes, it contains a carefully chosen selection of data about earth and its diversity. The Voyager probes are not expected to come close to a star system for another 40,000 years, the concept of the Golden Record was more a symbol of the human desire to explore space than a serious attempt at alien contact.
The data consists of 115 images and numerous pieces of audio including weather sounds, bird calls, whale songs and greetings in 55 ancient and modern earth languages. Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 and Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode were also included.
On the cover of the record is a collection of pictographs which describe how the record is to be played, the encoding schema that should be used to decode the data and the location of earth in the Milky Way galaxy.
In late 1994 segments of audio from the Golden Record were transmitted back to earth and received by autonomous instrumentation at the Arecibo Ionospheric Observatory. Kurt Waldheim's message of peace and goodwill was received over a segment of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #2 (TXF: "Little Green Men).
Voyager 1 was launched on Sept 5 1977 with the primary mission to survey Saturn and Jupiter which it did with unprecedented success, returning incredible high resolution images and a wealth of data from its other sensors. Voyager 1 was in fact launched after Voyager 2 but because of its trajectory it escaped earth orbit and ultimately the solar-system much faster. In 1990 Voyager 1 left our solar system and became an insterstellar probe.
Voyager 2 was launched in August 1977 with the primary goal of surveying Uranus and Neptune after sling-shotting past Jupiter and Saturn which it also surveyed in some detail. Like Voyager 1, Voyager 2 was a huge success, transmitting back to earth vast amounts of never-before seen images and readings from its advanced instrumentation. Voyager 2 is yet to leave the solar-system technically but has travelled far beyond the orbit of the outermost planet, Pluto.
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