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Voyager - a mission to deep space  
Voyager 1, NASA's deep space probe, is humankind's most distant object. Last year it achieved the milestone of departing Earth's solar system and entering interstellar space – the unimaginable vacuum between our son and the next nearest stars.
Voyager - a mission to deep space Voyager 1, NASA's deep space probe, is humankind's most distant object. Last year it achieved the milestone of departing Earth's solar system and entering interstellar space – the unimaginable vacuum between our son and the next nearest stars. The fact that Voyager had made it to this uncharted area was not immediately released to the world's press. The project scientist Ed Stone explained: ‘We have been cautious because we're dealing with one of the most important milestones in the history of exploration. Only now do we have the data and the analysis we needed'. One of the scientific aspects the project team required information about concerned plasma. This is ionized gas, and is one of space's slowest moving charged particles. There are examples of plasma all around us – such as whenever you pass a lounge bar in the evening and see a neon glow. According to Stone, plasma is the marker that allows scientists to distinguish whether Voyager 1 is inside the solar bubble, or heliosphere, the zone which is inflated by a plasma that seeps from our sun; or whether it is surrounded by material which emanated from the explosions of giant stars million and millions of years ago. The latter would indicate interstellar space. The Voyager mission has been successful on many levels, but determining whether or not it had crossed into interstellar space was a major coup for the project team, as prior to the discovery they weren't entirely convinced they would be able to accomplish this. Stone outlined the fact that all the major landmarks of scientific discovery have required lengthy periods of time. The theory of tectonic plates – explaining the eternal shifting of the Earth's continents and sea floors- took some 40 years to finalise after first being mooted in the 1910s. Scientists spent a long time ingathering data. Voyager 1 is involved in exploring regions that are infinitely more remote and unfamiliar than the Earth's crust. Interstellar space lies over 17 billion kilometers from the sun. In making sense of the information being sent back to headquarters from these depths, it is unsurprising that time is being taken to absorb the fine points. Exiting the heliosphere and entering the interstellar zone really is turning science fiction into fact. Theories about the nature of the universe that have remained open questions for decades are coming closer to being answered with each new communication received from this vast distance. As well as probing deep space, the Voyager spacecraft have also tracked some of our immediate neighbors: mapping, sampling and photographing Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
One of the scientific aspects the project team required information about concerned plasma. This is ionized gas, and is one of space's slowest moving charged particles. There are examples of plasma all around us – such as whenever you pass a lounge bar in the evening and see a neon glow. According to Stone, plasma is the marker that allows scientists to distinguish whether Voyager 1 is inside the solar bubble, or heliosphere, the zone which is inflated by a plasma that seeps from our sun; or whether it is surrounded by material which emanated from the explosions of giant stars million and millions of years ago. The latter would indicate interstellar space.
The Voyager mission has been successful on many levels, but determining whether or not it had crossed into interstellar space was a major coup for the project team, as prior to the discovery they weren't entirely convinced they would be able to accomplish this.
Stone outlined the fact that all the major landmarks of scientific discovery have required lengthy periods of time. The theory of tectonic plates – explaining the eternal shifting of the Earth's continents and sea floors- took some 40 years to finalise after first being mooted in the 1910s. Scientists spent a long time ingathering data. Voyager 1 is involved in exploring regions that are infinitely more remote and unfamiliar than the Earth's crust. Interstellar space lies over 17 billion kilometers from the sun. In making sense of the information being sent back to headquarters from these depths, it is unsurprising that time is being taken to absorb the fine points. Exiting the heliosphere and entering the interstellar zone really is turning science fiction into fact. Theories about the nature of the universe that have remained open questions for decades are coming closer to being answered with each new communication received from this vast distance.
As well as probing deep space, the Voyager spacecraft have also tracked some of our immediate neighbors: mapping, sampling and photographing Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.