NASA officials confirmed Thursday that after 36 years of space exploration Voyager 1 has left the solar system’s heliosphere and entered interstellar space.
Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 has been traveling at 38,000 miles per hour, and is now 11.7 billion miles from Earth. In the ’70s, Voyager 1 was seen as a state of the art spacecraft designed as a four-year mission to Saturn. Carrying 1970-technology with an eight-track tape recorder and a computer that can process 8,000 instructions per second, a fraction of what your smartphone can do, scientists have still been able to play back the data stored every six months using a 23-watt signal.
NASA confirmed that Voyager 1 had left the solar system when a radio transmission arrived via the eight-track tape recording. “New and unexpected data indicate Voyager 1 has been traveling for about one year through plasma, or ionized gas, present in the space between the stars,” NASA reported on their website.
The Voyager is “the farthest piece of hardware we have ever sent. It becomes an ambassador for our species,” astrophysicist Neil Degrasse said on the Today show via skype on Friday. The voyage is not only collecting scientific data but “the spacecraft had information fixed to the side of the vessel which included a gold phonograph record which contained greetings to whatever intelligent species collected this craft wherever it ends up landing.”