Ladies and Gentlemen, Voyager Has Left the Building!

NASA image

Maybe because I grew up being awakened before dawn to watch Gemini and Apollo launches with my space-bedazzled father, maybe because I’m Catholic and therefore understand that science and theology are just two different languages for the same wonder, but this story just makes my heart soar. Today the Voyager spacecraft—and with it, our earthbound eyes—left our galaxy and ventured into the depths of interstellar space.

Though no man has gone there before, Voyager didn’t necessarily go boldly. She’s an aging craft, and the technology with which she was launched has long since been outdistanced by the devices in our teenagers’ pockets. But watch the video clip from tonight’s CBS Evening News, and see whether it doesn’t make you look to the heavens and feel a bit of awe—not only for the heavens themselves, but for the wondrous work of humans made in their Creator’s awesome image.

I almost hope that, in 2025 when the time comes to shut Voyager down, she finds the voice of H.A.L. and puts up a fight. Not disassemble!

Meanwhile, as our eyes begin to scan what eye has not seen nor ear heard, take this as a lullabye of song and praise. Dad, I know you’re watching, more bedazzled than ever.

O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:

All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;

The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! (Psalm 8, KJV)

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Again. What is the next imaginary barrier it is going to find to cross?

    It does make me wonder though. Since in Newtonian space, speed attainable is directly related to mass, could we build a voyager equivalent the size of a smartphone, a disc antenna, and a *very large rocket* and pass by Voyager 1 in a few months, merely by accelerating a much smaller and lower powered mass?

    • Dale

      Much of the speed that the two Voyagers have came from using gravitational assist from the gas giant planets. The Voyagers were launched when they were to take advantage of a uncommon alignment of those planets, an alignment which will not happen again for more than a century.

      I don’t know anything about physics, but I think a heavier mass would be useful in exploiting a gravity slingshot. At least up to a point. Its possible to throw a baseball farther than a pingpong ball. But throwing a bowling ball might not go so well!

  • EMS

    Slight correction – Voyager left our solar system, not the galaxy. Based on the beauty and immensity of space, I can’t understand how any astronomer can possibly be an atheist.