Thank You Gene Roddenberry
When you think of the Voyager I & II mission, what comes to mind? For me, it was the 1979 Star Trek film that caught my 13-year-old imagination. The plot of the first Star Trek film, created by Gene Roddenberry, was based on the idea that an alien ship was hiding inside a massive energy cloud. The Star Trek crew investigates the cloud and finds that it contains an earth ship called V'ger short for Voyager 6. Very much like the Voyager I & II mission of 1977, this fictional V'ger was sent out into the universe to collect and learn all that could be understood and return that information to its creator. In the movie, the probe gathered so much knowledge that it became self-aware. And with this sentience, the machine had realized two things. The first was that it had no more purpose. It had learned everything it could. The second was it found its existence meaningless. In the movie, the machine wanted to share its information with the creator, A human being. It knew that the human form was its creator, and before it shut down, it wanted to impart all of its knowledge.
Praise for The Child
It was like a child who wanted to share its experiences with its parent(s). I wanted you, the reader, to understand that we are all the creators and that if we had the power to know everything, our lives would become meaningless. In this 3rd dimension that we live in, we are taught that we are not enough, that we must look for guidance and be forgiven, outside of ourselves. V'ger knew everything, and yet it was not satisfied with its existence. Its focus became sharing the knowledge with the creator. The ironic part is the creator needed a machine to learn for it and would not be able to support all the information V'ger had in the human form. like most of us, our parents set us out on a journey to learn so that we could move past them. They might not be able to take in all that we have learned but would still happily support our growth.
Fiction Becomes Truth
I share this story with you because we always feel we are a step behind or worse yet, not enough. You couldn't be farther from the truth. You don't have to be a NASA mission specialist to appreciate the beauty of the Voyager mission.
The knowledge we as a species have gained and continue to gain is profound. As a people, we are just in the first stages of exploring interstellar space and collecting the data for future knowledge.
Let's take a step back and review what the original Voyager space probe mission plan was. First, there would be two space probes designed to fit into a once-in-a-lifetime window to examine and photograph all four of our solar system's giant planets. The probes would use all four of the planet's gravity to swing from one planet to the next. The alignment to make this happen only comes every 176 years.
42 Years Ago on March 5th 1979
Voyager II launches first, and Voyager I will launch 16 days later. Why do you ask? Well, because Voyager I will reach Jupiter and Saturn first based on its trajectory. Therefore it was named Voyager I. It will take a little less than two years, but on March 5th (42 years ago today!) 1979, we got to see the first live pictures of Jupiter. We also learned that there were active volcanoes on the moon known as Io. For the first time, we learned what the red spot is on Jupiter's surface. It is a massive hurricane-like storm that is the size of three Earth's combined! Voyager II makes an even closer path past Jupiter on July 9th, 1979. It confirms that the volcanic activity on Lo (one of the moons in Jupiter's orbit) captured by Voyager I, is still happening. The data tells us that the volcanoes are erupting and flowing over periods of years and, in some cases, decades.
Saturn and Uranus
November 9th, 1980 (my sister's birthday) Voyager I encounters Saturn. We learned that there are three new moons we have never detected before (Atlas, Prometheus, and Pandora). A little over 10-months later, Voyager II discovers strange hexagonal weather features in the North Pole. They also see geological activity on Saturn's moons.
Next up, Uranus (insert joke here). For the first time ever, we can see the 7th planet from our sun. It is a beautiful robin's egg blue and has 11 moons we had previously not known existed.
Finally, Voyager II makes contact with our last planet, Neptune. Again, we discover six new moons, rings encircling the planet, and a massive counter-clockwise storm in the southern hemisphere. This storm was as big as Earth itself! Called the Great Dark Spot, it had measured wind speeds of a staggering 2,100 kph, the fastest wind ever measured in the solar system.
December 5th, 1989, at the end of the planets in our solar system, Voyager II shuts down the cameras onboard and continues to go out into the far reaches of space and continue collecting data on solar winds in interstellar space.
A Final Look at Us
Meanwhile, on Valentine's day, 1990, Voyager I takes a look back about 4 billion miles and snaps a picture of the last image of the mission. It is a photo of our solar system family from Neptune to the sun, and if you look real hard, you can see a "tiny pale blue dot" called Earth.
Please don't worry friends, this is not the end of our journey. Voyager I & II are still traveling, and over the past 21 years, when the cameras turned off, our intrepid duo has crossed the inner boundary of the heliosheath, which is the turbulent outer layer of the bubble the sun blows itself and all of our planets.
As of 2012 Voyager II becomes the official longest operating mission in the history of the human race, and Voyager I becomes the first craft to reach interstellar space.
50 More Years of Science Technology
All of this has taken place with technology created in the mid-1970s, and we are still receiving data from both Voyager I & II. What does that say about humankind? What information do you think our civilization will gain from the current mission to Mars? I don't know, but our thirst for knowledge is quenched only by our desire to understand our purpose. If Gene Roddenberry taught us anything, it was that we are all explorers of knowledge, and we are nothing without our humanity.
You Are The Creator
Go out there and create. Find your best self, and don't worry about who does or doesn't support you. Remember, you my friend, are the creator!