As I stare into the night sky, I sometimes find myself thinking about how vast the universe is. Sometimes, while thinking about where space ends, or the fact that space never ends, I start to feel very uneasy. Regardless, I will blog about it, but I am not happy about it.
There are currently only 5 Planetary Probes which have left the solar system, and are continuing on their path to the infinite unknown. Each of these probes were launched into interstellar space by a multistage rocket, and the final stage of each rocket is also on a similar path to the unknown, but these rocket parts are merely space junk now, and we will not discuss those here.
Pioneer 10 was the first Planetary Probe launched in 1972. We have not had contact with Pioneer 10 since 2003, but before loosing contact, we saw it pass Jupiter, and it is now presumably heading toward a star in the constellation of Taurus.
Pioneer 11 was launched the following year in 1973. We have not had contact with Pioneer 11 since 1995, but before loosing contact, we saw it pass Jupiter, and Saturn. Pioneer 11 will arrive at its target in the constellation of Sagittarius in 4 million years.
Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were both launched in 1977. They both remain active and send data to earth. They left the solar system in 2012 and 2018, respectively.
The last Planetary Probe to leave the Solar System was New Horizons, launched in 2006. New Horizons remained active as it passed Pluto and returned imagery in 2015. New Horizons still remains active and is continues sending scientific data to earth.
It is truly remarkable that mankind has sent probes so far into space, and even more amazing that some of these probes are still returning data to earth.
These feats would not have been possible without exceptional rockets, and exceptional rocket scientists.
To learn more about Rocket Propulsion, or to sharpen your skills as a Rocket Scientist, consider taking one of ATI’s upcoming courses on the topic.
Both Rocket Propulsion 101 and Rockets and Launch Vehicles – Selection and Design will be offered in February, 2022.
As always, a full listing of ATI courses can be found here.