At a distance of 137 AU (2.05×1010 km) from the Sun as of December 2016, it is the farthest spacecraft from Earth as well as the farthest man-made object, launched on September 5, 1977 part of the Voyager program to study the outer Solar System, Voyager 1 launched 16 days after its twin.
The contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University, et. al. Dr. Sagan and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind and thunder, birds, whales, and other animals.
To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages, and printed messages from President Carter and U.N. Secretary General Waldheim. Each record is encased in a protective aluminum jacket, together with a cartridge and a needle.
Instructions, in symbolic language, explain the origin of the spacecraft and indicate how the record is to be played. The 115 images are encoded in analog form. The remainder of the record is in audio, designed to be played at 16-2/3 revolutions per minute.
It contains the spoken greetings, beginning with Akkadian, which was spoken in Sumer about six thousand years ago, and ending with Wu, a modern Chinese dialect. Following the section on the sounds of Earth, there is an eclectic 90-minute selection of music, including both Eastern and Western classics and a variety of ethnic music.
Once the Voyager spacecraft leave the solar system by 1990, both will be beyond the orbit of Pluto, they will find themselves in empty space. It will be forty thousand years before they make a close approach to any other planetary system. As Carl Sagan has noted, “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space faring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet.”
Voyager 1 was constructed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It has 16 hydrazine thrusters, three-axis stabilization gyroscopes, and referencing instruments to keep the probe’s radio antenna pointed toward Earth. Collectively, these instruments are part of the Attitude and Articulation Control Subsystem (AACS), along with redundant units of most instruments and 8 backup thrusters. The spacecraft also included 11 scientific instruments to study celestial objects such as planets as it travels through space.
The radio communication system of Voyager 1 was designed to be used up to and beyond the limits of the Solar System. The communication system includes a 3.7-meter (12 ft) diameter parabolic dish high-gain antenna to send and receive radio waves via the three Deep Space Network stations on the Earth. The craft normally transmits data to Earth over Deep Space Network Channel 18, using a frequency of either 2.3 GHz or 8.4 GHz, while signals from Earth to Voyager are broadcast at 2.1 GHz.
When Voyager 1 is unable to communicate directly with the Earth, its digital tape recorder (DTR) can record about 64 kilobytes of data for transmission at another time. Signals from Voyager 1 take over 19 hours to reach Earth.
WHERE ARE THE VOYAGERS?