Daily Archives: December 5, 2012

Beginnings and endings …

Beginnings and endings …

Voyager 1 from Star Trek: The Motion Picture

The news that NASA’s Voyager 1 is hitting the edge of our Solar System has struck a huge chord with me. Having grown up in the 1960s, I am, among other things, a true space age baby. I have vivid memories of John Glenn’s spaceflight, the moon landing and took Star Trek for my anthem of what was “out there”.

By the late 1970s when the Voyager program started, I was, admittedly, disappointed that NASA was choosing technological feats of fancy for exploring our galaxy rather than charting a path to exploring Mars, but, Trekkie that I am, did enjoy the continuing exploits of “Vger” which brought my beloved Star Trek crew back into space in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Given that I have an actual tri-corder from the original series–that’s TOS to the initiated–I figure I have the cred to speak about it, but it is the actual trajectory of Voyager I at its “end” that is so intriguing.

Voyager 1 at the edge of the Solar System caught in the eddies of the Solar Souther Hemisphere "Winds" and the pull of the "Magnetic Highway":  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Voyager 1 at the edge of the Solar System caught in the eddies of the Southern Hemisphere “Winds” of the Sun and the pull of the “Magnetic Highway.” Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Apparently, with all systems still go and traveling at 35,700 miles per hour till at least 2020, Voyager 1 has hit a region of space at the end of the Solar System and the beginning of “out there”: interstellar space on the other side. NASA made this momentous announcement earlier in the week noting that the edge of the solar system is shown through remarkable readings, very much like ocean tides that interact between the end of the magnetic pull of our Sun and the next area of space labeled the “magnetic highway.”

Voyager I has been traveling between these two areas of space since July; the tiny space craft that could beaming back yet another round of its remarkable stream of data for us to interpret. As NASA’s Yoyager project scientist Edward Stone put it: “Although Voyager 1 still is inside the sun’s environment, we now can taste what it’s like on the outside because the particles are zipping in and out on this magnetic highway.” (Link to article)

The great “out there” remains a mantra of sorts for Trekkies and other fellow “travelers” who were bitten by the space bug. As with many instances of contending with the unknown, we human beings have a tendency to create fanciful stories and myths of what lies beyond our barriers. Surely Voyager I is in great company when it comes to the dragons that lie beyond the mark of the known world, but that is what makes it such an exciting prospect. This particular border crossing comes with the ebbs and flows of collision between one set of rules and another making it tricky, but once past the gate, the great “out there” offers us a new and wonderous beginning.