Over 12 billion miles from Earth, a gangly ship sails through interstellar space. It is, by far, the most distant object made by human hands.
In 1977, NASA launched twin Voyager spacecraft. An emotional, cinematic documentary, The Farthest tells their story through first-hand accounts from the passionate men and women who built the ships and guided their journeys. Negotiating a series of perils on its Grand Tour of the outer planets, Voyager beamed back spectacular images of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
But their moons offered bigger surprises – volcanoes, geysers, and a liquid water ocean. On the chance of discovery by intelligent aliens, each spacecraft carried a Golden Record with music and spoken greetings.
The mission has earned its place in the pantheon of human achievements. Long after our sun has flamed out, the Voyagers are likely to be sailing on, perhaps the only evidence that we ever existed.
The Voyager program is a continuing American scientific program that employs two robotic probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, to study the outer Solar System. They were launched in 1977 to take advantage of a favorable alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, and are now exploring the outer boundary of the heliosphere in interstellar space.
Although their original mission was to study only the planetary systems of Jupiter and Saturn, Voyager 2 continued on to Uranus and Neptune, and both Voyagers are now tasked with exploring interstellar space. Their mission has been extended three times, and both probes continue to collect and relay useful scientific data. Neither Uranus nor Neptune has been visited by any probe other than Voyager 2.
Data and photographs collected by the Voyagers’ cameras, magnetometers, and other instruments revealed previously unknown details about each of the giant planets and their moons. Close-up images from the spacecraft charted Jupiter’s complex cloud forms, winds, and storm systems and discovered volcanic activity on its moon Io.
Saturn’s rings were found to have enigmatic braids, kinks, and spokes and to be accompanied by myriad “ringlets.” At Uranus Voyager 2 discovered a substantial magnetic field around the planet and 10 additional moons. Its flyby of Neptune uncovered three complete rings and six hitherto unknown moons as well as a planetary magnetic field and complex, widely distributed auroras. Voyager 2 is still the only spacecraft to have visited the ice giants.