Happy 35th birthday, Voyager 2! Okay, it was yesterday, but I still remembered and would totally have gotten you a cake if you were around. I was 8 years old when you went up, so all of the incredible discoveries that you and your sibling made happened right when I was becoming aware that there was a big wide world beyond the confines of my backyard. You helped inspire a lifelong love of science, especially astronomy, and for that, I thank you and all of the hardworking people that created you and keep you keepin’ on today.
I cannot begin to express how exciting this is to a nerd such as me. I remember so clearly the Voyagers being launched, the amazing photos as they came back one by one, Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos,” which featured these ships and the thrill of space exploration, and then the ongoing ping as these two tiny machines continue to call home every day with discoveries about unimaginably distant places. In my lifetime we have gone from an earthbound species to one that has stepped on another celestial object, explored others with the use of robots and is now about to send an object we made past the edge of our solar system and into the galaxy at large. We live in stellar times. I hope we never forget what we’re capable of doing, because what we can do when we want to do it is truly mind-boggling.
For all of the recent chatter about the Space Shuttles, for all the ripples of excitement I feel at the idea of sending or being an extraterrestrial explorer, I have to admit that unmanned probes like Cassini and the Voyagers, along with Hubble, provide a shockingly high return on investment.
But I’d still volunteer to go on a one-way trip to Mars.