Source: The New York Times
Voyager and beyond
Summer 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the Voyager spacecraft mission, launched in 1977. At the time, I was young with no clue about the future or Space flight. Forty years later I am fascinated how Space exploration has evolved and the future it is ushering in. However, in forty years the times, oh how they have changed, dramatically.
From 1977 to 2017, Space exploration has moved from exploratory excitement to capitalistic monetization. NASA is changing its direction from space exploration pioneers to managing commercialization and privatizing space exploration to the highest bidder. Now NASA finds itself, not in the Space race, but the corporate race.
For NASA and the Voyager space mission it was about the unknown, and finding answers to the mysteries of Space and life beyond our solar system. To accomplish this, the Voyager mission engineers dedicated their lives, and their families, to the success of their mission. This dedication turned Voyager from a career to a family. Now, as time marches on Voyager 1 & 2 have moved on to a new phase of the mission, passing into interstellar Space, a new frontier. However, with the fanfare gone, dwindling budgets, and retirement of lifelong Voyager engineers this new phase of the mission goes unnoticed and fading into history. In its place, the privatization of Space and bragging rights for the first company to build office space on the moon.
I guess this is progress, ushering in a cutting-edge future built on the retiring technology of the past. With Space exploration moving into the corporate realm, it cheapens the excitement and grandeur Space once held. Especially for the older generations who remember the excitement of watching Space Shuttle flights. Younger generations, growing up in the digital age are not as impressed by the intrigue of Space exploration, but rather the excitement of the first McDonald’s drive-thru on the moon.
With the new corporate Space race, NASA finds itself racing to keep up. Diminished is the splendor and clout NASA once had, the mission now, the property management of Space; from the leader in Space exploration to the landlord of Space real estate. In the shadow of the new Space frontier, the Voyager mission quietly continues. Retiring Voyager engineers passing on their knowledge to the remaining team. All the while watching Voyager continue onward with quiet pride from the comfort of a well-earned retirement. The dedication of the Voyager team of engineers will forever be ingrained and live on in the future accomplishments of an ever-evolving and fascinating Space program, job well done.
For more information please read The New York Times article on the Voyager space mission.