Voyager I spacecraft still on the move after 36 years

Posted at 6:58 PM, Sep 13, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-13 18:58:16-04

Chesapeake, Va. - It's been 36 years since the Voyager I spacecraft launched into outer space. And now NASA scientists have evidence that, after all these years and some communication with the spacecraft, the Voyager has left our solar system.

Launched in 1977, the Voyager I has become the first man-made object to enter interstellar space, or the space between the stars.  The spacecraft is more than 11 billion miles from Earth, running on less power than your iPhone.

"It's the first type of spacecraft that will leave the solar system, never to return," said Dr. Robert Hitt, director of the Chesapeake Planetarium.

There's been debate for quite some time whether or not Voyager had left our solar system. But that debate was put to rest when scientists discovered signals and the first-ever sounds from interstellar space, partly from a vintage eight-track recorder on the spacecraft.  Voyager also has a record onboard with greetings, pictures, and music that would tell aliens all about Earth if they found the spacecraft.

"It's really like a message in a bottle.  It's a cosmic note going to the stars, but it has a long way to go and it will take many, many years to reach a nearby star," said Hitt. "The technology we have today in your wrist watch and your iPad and iPod, that blows away the technology that's on most of these spacecraft," said Hitt.

Scientists believe engineers will likely turn off Voyager I's instruments in 2020 because of a dwindling power supply. The spacecraft will likely go dark by 2025.