Fifty years ago this month, Pioneer 10 was launched. A NASA spaceprobe, it was the first earthmade object to achieve “escape velocity” and leave the solar system.
Escape velocity is such an evocative term. It makes me think of finally having the momentum to break away from a bad relationship, bad job, bad situation. Just spinning fast enough to launch out of there.
For the Pioneer, it was sending signals back to earth of what was out there, as it slid past the planets, and it stopped sending signals (or people on earth stopped receiving them) in the late 1990s. But it is still out there, beyond our reach, escaping still.
Five years after Pioneer 10, the Voyager probes left earth. They are also voyaging still, and Voyager 1 is the furthest manmade object from earth. The probes still send back signals, and you can read the messages from Voyager 2 on twitter.
To a layman like me, the messages like this mean little:
I have no idea what a plasma calibration subroutine might be. But what I do understand is that this is our vessel, sending messages back to us from the stars, as it travels further and further from home.