A Greek eye on Voyager’s journey

Thessaloniki – Launched back in 1977, the unmanned Voyager spacecraft continues its solitary journey in space well beyond the bounds of our solar system. That unending trip, and those of other spaceships that have been sent to explore the secrets of our sun and the planets Mercury, Saturn and Pluto, were the subject of a presentation at Thessaloniki University and the Space Sciences Center of Thessaloniki on November 12. Dr Stamatis Krimizis, who was born on Chios, is director of Space Programs at Johns Hopkins University, referred to recent discoveries by the Cassini mission, such as the waves on Titan’s rings and the fact that the planet’s magnetosphere revolves with it. Speaking to Kathimerini about his contribution to the planning of NASA’s projected mission by the Solar Explorer to the sun, Krimizis emphasized the importance of Voyager I in conquering space. He also extolled the scientific advances that humanity made «before 100 years had passed since the Wright brothers’ first flight and 50 years since the Sputnik was launched; now, around another 50 years later, we know that solar shock waves hit the edge of the heliosphere, 14 billion kilometers away. Where is Voyager now? It is 14.1 billion miles from Earth. To get an idea of the distance, just think that its radio waves, which travel to Earth at the speed of light, take 13.5 hours, compared with the light of the sun, which takes 8.5 minutes. What has impressed you? The journey of Voyager. It was launched in 1977, and it has explored Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. It has more or less rewritten all the books about the outer planets, and what students learn nowadays about them we owe to Voyager. Will we ever find Voyager? We won’t find it ourselves, of course. It is on its way to a group of stars in the constellation of Camelopardalis (the Giraffe). It will get there in about 40,000 years. Nobody expected it to be such a voyager, since the objective aim was to explore Jupiter and Saturn in just four years. Now we’re at 28 years and counting. Habitable? What is responsible for its success? A spaceship in an area that has not been explored is bound to make discoveries. It has survived because of the careful work that we all put into preparing the systems and to our experiments. In mine, for instance, I had a revolving mechanism that turns every 192 seconds. Everyone said it wouldn’t work in space, and yet it is still working to this day. Of all the planets, is there one that is thought to be habitable? Maybe Mars. It’s close; it has a rudimentary atmosphere; and the temperature is not terribly low.