Just over 60 years ago, on October 4, 1957, humankind reached for the stars for the first time. Sputnik.
The world’s first artificial satellite was really nothing more than a radio transmitter housed in a sphere a bit larger than a basketball, but it made up for its size and simplicity in its impact. Kicking off years of competition as we explored the furthest reaches of space.
The next big step: the moon.
Apollo 11 placed humans on another celestial body for the first time. Just under a year later, Apollo 13. What began as a life-threatening disaster became one of NASA’s shining moments of ingenuity and success. On their hastened return, the crew of Apollo 13 swung high above and around the far side of the moon, unintentionally setting the record for the farthest humans have ever been- 248,655 miles away from Earth.
It’s my hope that this 50 year record will be broken in the near future as crewed space exploration expands beyond the International Space Station- which orbits a mere 240 miles above Earth. While both men and women haven’t ventured further than Earth’s orbit since the 70s, crewless probes have traveled farther than we ever could.
Enter Voyager I.
40 years since its launch and well over 14 billion miles away, Voyager is and likely forever will be the most distant man-made object from Earth as it continues to travel away from the sun at roughly 35,000 miles per hour. What’s just as astounding is that it still works…mostly. A few instruments still measure and transmit data back to Earth; but its camera is offline, being turned off in 1990- not before taking one final batch of pictures.
The first ever “solar system family portrait.” A mosaic featuring the sun and six planets, including our own “pale blue dot.”
Famed astrophysicist Carl Sagan put it best, “that’s home. That’s us…. a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” Billions of miles away and decades since our cosmic journey began with Sputnik.
Storm Team 2 Meteorologist David Dickson