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Voyager 1 - Our First Journey Into Interstellar Space


Launched in 1977, Voyager 1's mission was to bring back information from the planets in our solar system. For anyone old enough, who can forget the spectacular photographs of Jupiter and Saturn in particular? NASA announced, on September 12th, 2013, that Voyager 1 has become the first manmade object to leave our solar system.

Now, Voyager 1 has gone way beyond Pluto and is no longer being affected by particles from the Sun. It is between the stars, and Beethoven, Chuck Berry and the sounds of whales and birds are floating in interstellar space.

Though only a machine, it's easy to feel an emotional attachment to Voyager 1. It carries information that encapsulates our planet, representing all life on Earth, and, indeed, us. So, part of us is now in interstellar space on its way to another star. As every living thing owes its existence to the stardust that created it we could be said to be going home.

One awe-inspiring thought is that Voyager 1 will take 40,000 years to reach the next star. However, if the human race is still around then humans may be technologically advanced enough to have overtaken Voyager 1 maybe millennia before!

Copyright © Paul Rance/

Space Exploration in the 21st Century

Regardless of NASA cutting back on its space program, space projects will still be a prominent part of scientific endeavour in the first half of the 21st Century.

The New Space Powers

New economic giants such as China will be a major player in space exploration, and may well be the first country that lands men on Mars. Asia, generally, seems to have no shortage of countries that have the capability of investing in space programs, including India and Japan. Russia, with its new economic muscle, will also continue to invest in space exploration. The European Space Agency may be temporarily hindered by the economic crisis in the eurozone, but will bounce back.

The more countries there are that take an interest in space projects, then the greater likelihood of NASA being prodded into reacting. America's original enthusiasm for putting men into space, and subsequently on the Moon, was never purely down to exploration for its own sake. The Cold War, and the desire for the Soviet Union and the United States to put one over each other, was an equally strong driving force.

The current situation with NASA seems more a case of regrouping. If one country or organization announces a planned mission to Mars, for instance, then it will have a positive impact on space programs around the world. It would be strange to see NASA happily take a backseat as it started to slip down the pecking order of space travel.

A Great Opportunity for Mankind

In the 1960s there were only two countries who could genuinely put men into space on a regular basis - the United States and the then Soviet Union. But, there are two reasons why space travel in the 21st Century can really flourish. Firstly, there are more nations who are capable of putting men in space. Secondly, the relationships between all these countries is good enough for a united effort. The latter also seems more practical in terms of economics.

There is a great opportunity for mankind in the 21st Century to reach new heights in space exploration. Man is almost genetically engineered to want to explore, and NASA will still play an important part, even if it becomes more of an advisory role.

NASA is a prestigious organization, and is respected by any country with ambitions in space exploration. It will surely still have an important part to play in this century and possibly even beyond.

Copyright © Paul Rance/

Messier 82 Galaxy
The Beautiful Messier 82 Galaxy
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI)
More astonishing photographs of distant galaxies are available at

BOOKS ABOUT ASTRONOMY AND SPACE available from - in association with

Pocket Guide to Stars and Planets (Collins Pocket Guide)
~Ian Ridpath, Wil Tirion (Illustrator)
Paperback - February 5, 2001
The Sun: A Biography
~David Whitehouse
John Wiley and Sons Ltd
Hardcover - November 19, 2004
There's No Place Like Space: All about Our Solar System (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library (Hardcover))
~Tish Rabe, et al
Random House Books for Young Readers
Hardcover - October 1, 1999
BOOKS ABOUT ASTRONOMY AND SPACE available from - in association with
Product photo Big Bang: The Origin Of The Universe
Simon Singh
Product photo The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery
Guillermo Gonzalez
Product photo Explorations: An Introduction to Astronomy
Thomas T. Arny

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