Forty years ago, the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Their mission: Get the first up-close views of Jupiter and Saturn as they flew by the planets. By 1980 that mission was complete. But the twin satellites didn’t stop. They kept going, and going, and going . . .
Now the satellites are racing to see how far they can go and what they can learn about our solar system before running out of power. “It was a four-year mission that’s completing its fourth decade,” says Suzanne Dodd, Voyager’s project manager. “We’re trying to operate it so it can last as long as possible.”
Over the years, the satellites have captured never-before-seen views of all the outer planets. The data they gathered revealed active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io, Neptune’s great dark spot (a giant storm like Jupiter’s red spot), and much more. Today, the spacecraft are still speeding away from Earth and collecting data about their surroundings. “We should have a mission for another 8 to 10 years, assuming that all goes well,” says Dodd.