The Farthest (2017) Movie Script

[wind blowing, static radio and chimes]
[wind blowing, electronic sounds,
faint radio chatter]
[wind blowing, electronic sounds]
[radio static, faint radio chatter]
[wind blowing, wolf howling]
[faint Morse code style beeping]
It is really true
that you can only explore
the solar system
for the first time once.
Ah... Voyager did that.
[whale sounds]
How could one be so lucky?
It's a dream and it came true.
[Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F
(Golden Record)]
Fifty years from now,
Voyager will be the science project
of the 20th century.
The mission.
The big mission.
[Melancholy Blues (Louis Armstrong)]
It opened our eyes to worlds,
to real worlds.
[aircraft/rocket noises]
[faint plucked guitar string]
This may in the long run be
the only evidence that we ever existed.
[faint plucked guitar string]
Voyager to me was Homeric,
it was years of passing
across the solar system
from one planet to the other
and then it was a week or two
of frenzied activity
and discovery and conquest
and then it was, well,
back in the boats,
oars in the water and
then on to the next conquest.
[faint white noise]
["Wishing on a Star," Rose Royce]
I'm wishing on a star
to follow where you are
I'm wishing on a dream
It is the little engine that could.
Nobody really knows how it does it,
but everybody's rooting for it.
...and I wish on all
the rainbows that I've seen
Every second, it goes to another place
where we have never been before.
...who really dream,
and I'm wishing on tomorrow
Voyager takes the cake.
It's the most audacious mission.
Who'd have thought
that we'd actually be able
to do that in 1977?
I'm wishing on a star...
[music finishes with final line]
[soft piano]
NARRATOR: In 1977, a team
of scientists and engineers
launched a mission
of staggering ambition.
The initial idea was a grand
tour of the outermost planets...
Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
What were their atmospheres like?
Their moons?
At the time, our knowledge
of these worlds was scant.
[mechanical noises
and piano music plays]
ED STONE: We knew a little
because you can observe
from the Earth with telescopes.
We knew for example at Jupiter
that there were moons...
Io, Europa, Ganymede
and Callisto going around.
[soft piano continues]
STONE: We knew that
there were winds on Jupiter,
we knew about the great
red spot on Jupiter,
we knew that there was
trapped radiation,
so we knew there was a magnetic field.
[soft piano]
It was big.
No, let's see, what did we know?
We knew they were all gas giants,
mostly made up of hydrogen and helium
and some methane on the outer planets.
[soft piano continues]
For Saturn, we knew about the rings
and we knew about the major satellites,
but hardly anything more than that,
and it was all very fuzzy.
[soft piano continues
and rattling noise comes in]
I had been staring at these planets
through some of the best
telescopes on Earth,
and yet all I could see was fuzzy blobs.
[soft piano continues, chain
rattling, squeaking, clanking]
Astronomers had worked pretty hard
to know what the physical make-up was,
there were some basic characteristics,
but their real nature,
what they were really made of
and what the means, moons, were like,
we had none of that,
just little glimpses.
[soft piano continues, now
accompanied by light guitar]
[sea and bird sounds]
Human beings are a curious bunch.
We want to know
what's around the corner.
We have to go past
that next bend in the road,
so it's some sort
of innate drive, I think,
that we have, as a species.
[light guitar & glockenspiel
music plays in the background]
STONE: One of the key things
that made this mission possible
was gravity assist.
That is when you fly by Jupiter,
you turn the corner
and you take a little bit
of Jupiter's orbital speed with you.
Like a slingshot,
so you better make sure
Saturn's in the right place.
The positions of the outer planets
presented an opportunity.
A rare alignment meant the time
needed to cross the solar system
could be slashed.
[light guitar& glockenspiel music
continues in the background]
It would go Jupiter boom, Saturn boom,
Uranus boom, Neptune boom.
HAMMEL: The planets had to be
lined up in just the right way
to allow one spacecraft to do that.
And that aligning up only occurs rarely.
HAMMEL: That only happens
once like once every hundred,
more than a hundred years.
...175 years, something like that.
Once every 176 years.
The previous time it happened,
exploration was wooden sailing ships.
[guitar music continues]
KRIMIGIS: It was named
"The Outer Planets Grand Tour,"
and the cost of the mission
was estimated to be
in excess of a billion dollars.
The NASA administrator
went to the President,
and he said the last time the planets
were lined up like that,
President Jefferson was sitting
at your desk, and he blew it.
So, Mr. Nixon laughed
and said all right, just do two.
So, only two planets.
[electric guitar music begins]
Jupiter and Saturn were officially a go.
It would be a less grand...
but still ambitious... tour.
Yet the Voyager team
wasn't ready to give up
on going farther.
As they assembled the spacecraft
in a giant hangar,
some of them kept a secret goal alive.
[sounds of light turning on]
We knew right from the get-go
that we were going to try
as hard as we could
to extend the mission
to go to Uranus and Neptune.
We designed that in from the beginning.
We knew that we were endowing
Voyager with the option
if the chance was there to use it.
[percussion kicks in as music continues]
JOHN CASANI: We didn't want to
build anything into the design
that would have prevented us
from going further.
So, it was a mission
within a mission, yeah.
[heartbeat, bottle falls,
water splashes]
BELL: A group of scientists
and visionaries realized
that these spacecraft
would leave the solar system.
They figured don't let
this opportunity pass,
you're going to throw a bottle
into the ocean.
Put a message in it.
[high pitched string music begins]
NARRATOR: What would we
want to tell intelligent aliens
about our planet?
What would we want
to tell them about us?
The driving force behind the message
was the astronomer Carl Sagan.
WATERS: Would you expect someone
to find this record out there?
Is there something out there?
Well, nobody knows.
One of the great unsolved questions
is whether we're alone or whether...
Carl Sagan has become probably
the best-known scientist
of the late 20th century.
He was a working scientist,
he played a key role
in many of the NASA missions
to the planets,
including the Voyager one.
He was one of the scientists
on the Voyager imaging team,
but he also was the astronomer
who as much as any one person
made the study of
extraterrestrial life credible.
A comment by Thomas Carlyle,
a somewhat crusty old fellow
who upon thinking about the stars said,
"A sad spectacle.
If they be inhabited, what
a scope for misery and folly.
If they be not inhabited...
what a waste of space."
Carl Sagan was a good friend of mine,
and I called him up and said,
"Hey, would you be willing to undertake
to come up with something
for us to put
on the Voyager spacecraft?"
He says, "Yes, sure."
And he told me he could do it
for 25,000 bucks,
so I authorized him
to go ahead and do it,
and I sort of was hands-off
at that point.
BELL: The Golden Record
followed in the footsteps
of a project called the Pioneer plaque.
CASANI: The Pioneer spacecraft
had some line drawings
of a male and female form,
and some people went absolutely bonkers.
I don't know if you've seen it,
but it's the most innocent thing
you can imagine,
and it caused a lot of commotion.
But I thought that was great.
LOMBERG: At first Carl thought
they'd simply do another plaque,
maybe with some more information,
but Frank Drake...
a brilliant theoretical physicist
but also a very hands-on kind of guy,
he came up with the idea
that for the same amount
of weight and space,
you could send a phonograph record.
[harp music]
DRAKE: The people who actually
did the science part of Voyager
are always jealous and mad
because the Golden Record
gets more attention
than all the wonderful things they did
exploring the outer planets
of the solar system
except Pluto and all that.
But the main attention goes
to the Golden Record.
Because of the aura
that surrounds anything to do
with extraterrestrial intelligent life,
any kind of effort to contact
extraterrestrial life
is more fascinating
than knowing the chemical makeup
of a mineral on Mars or something.
The record is an old-style LP recording.
The only difference is it's on metal,
and that's so it will last a long time.
And it was recorded at half-speed
so that gave us two hours of total time.
An hour and a half of it
was devoted to music
and the other half hour contains
all of the other data on the record,
the natural sounds of Earth,
the spoken greetings
and the encoded photographs of Earth.
LOMBERG: One of the first
questions a lot of people ask
is, well, they'll never
figure out how to play it.
And in fact, we included
a cartridge and stylus
in the package with the record,
and the drawing on the cover
of the record shows the method
by which the stylus is to be
placed on the record.
Maybe what's written on it
will seem like kindergarten
scribbles to them,
but they should be able to figure it out
if they've got some smart minds
or whatever's in their heads,
if they even have heads.
[spraying sounds]
What I find interesting
is to protect it from the dust
and tiny particles of the journey,
they put a cover over it,
and on the cover was engraved
the location of Earth,
our solar system,
in terms of its direction
from different pulsars.
CASANI: A lot of people said,
well, why would you do that?
I said what do you mean?
They say, well, why would you
announce where you are,
you know, because there
are aliens out there,
that probably raid planets
and use them for food
or eat the people or make them slaves.
You know, if they find it,
their technology is probably
more advanced than ours,
they'll come here and destroy us,
so why would you do something like that.
Why would these people expose themselves
to our voracious appetite?
They must be very altruistic, you know?
[whale sounds]
[radio signals scrambling
and faint radio chatter]
NARRATOR: In 1972, preparation
for the mission got underway.
Other great journeys of discovery...
by Magellan, Columbus, Da Gama...
all involved more than one ship.
And so would Voyager.
Two spacecraft would be built...
two chances for success.
[birds and wildlife noises]
One of the things I just admire most
about the engineers who built Voyager
is that they're always thinking
about the most improbable things
You know, you want to take those people
on a camping trip with you
because they will think of...
well, you've got to bring...
what if these bugs come out,
what if the tent gets flooded,
what if you run out of gas,
what if you can't
start the fire, you know.
They're the what if people,
and when you're sending
something out into space
you can't go do a service call,
you can't bring it back,
so your what if list
had better be like that long
or you're not going to be able
to survive.
[machines spinning and grinding]
These projects begin
with a conceptualization period.
How do we arrange the spacecraft,
how do we take
the communications system,
this large 12-foot diameter
fixed antenna,
and arrange it relative
to the propulsion system?
The spacecraft took on
the dimension of being a child,
and our design teams, you know,
were like kind of parents.
This was actually a nurturing process.
Bringing that child,
if you will, into reality.
CASANI: All spacecraft are made
basically of the same things,
silicon and aluminum, that's about it.
You know, that's probably 95% of it.
Silicon and aluminum is cheap
until you start making stuff
out if it, you know.
[beeping machines
and low bass drum beats]
RICH TERRILE: 1972 was when
you had the technology freeze,
remember we launched in 1977,
so you freeze technology
several years earlier,
and at the time the biggest
computers in the world
were comparable to the kinds of things
we have in our pockets today,
and I'm not talking about a cell phone.
I'm actually talking about a key fob.
What's wrong with 70s technology?
I mean, you're looking at me,
I'm a 30s technology, right?
I don't apologize for the limitations
that we were working with at the time.
We milked the technology
for what we could get from it.
Voyager is about 800 kilograms.
Its main antenna is 12 feet in diameter,
which was the largest we could launch.
There's this body,
this ten-sided can called the bus,
and that's got all the
electronics and the computers.
And that's got these arms and
these appendages that stick out.
It has these feet
that connected it to the rocket
and then a really long arm
with a magnetic field sensor
on it over here
and another arm over there
with this plutonium power supply
to give it its electricity.
You can't keep that too close
to the spacecraft
because it will radiate the spacecraft.
And another arm with this device
that had the cameras
and other instruments on it
that could point around,
kind of like the eyes,
and the big antenna was the ears.
We had eleven scientific instruments
peeking out to see what's out there.
When everything is fully extended
to its greatest dimensions,
it's comparable in size
to sort of a small school bus.
A strange-looking being for our planet,
but perfectly happy in space.
[Beethoven's 5th]
[Beethoven's 5th]
[music continues]
[Tchenhoukoumen percussion, Senegal]
Beethoven's Fifth Symphony
was one of twenty-seven pieces of music
chosen for the Golden Record.
FERRIS: I became the producer
of only one record in my career,
and only two copies of it were made,
and they were both hurled off the earth,
so I don't know if that's
a credential or not.
[needle sliding off record]
[Izlel je Delyo Hajdutin
(Golden Record)]
The launch window for Voyager was set.
and they sure as hell weren't
going to wait for the record.
[Fairie Round--David Munrow]
We had six weeks to do it,
that's what always draws
the biggest gasp,
that you had to figure out a way
to explain the world to aliens,
and by the way it has to be
finished in six weeks.
[Melancholy Blues--Louis Armstrong]
FERRIS: We had two goals
in making the Voyager record,
we wanted the music to represent
many different cultures around the world
and not just the culture of the society
that had built and launched
the spacecraft.
[Ugam--Azerbaijan bagpipes]
The other criterion was we
wanted it to be a good record.
[Mozart--Queen of the Night--Eda Moser]
It's a very idiosyncratic message.
It doesn't seem like something
made by a committee.
It's too quirky.
[Mozart--Queen of the Night--Eda Moser]
[Cranes in Their Nest,
Japan (Shakuhachi)]
If you listen to the Voyager record,
it would be remarkable if you
didn't hear some pieces of music
that were quite unlike anything
you had heard before.
The Japanese shakuhachi piece
or the sixteen-year-old
pygmy girl singing
what's called an initiation song,
a kind of puberty song,
in the Ituri forest of Africa
is just unbelievably beautiful.
[Pygmy girl initiation song]
There was a certain amount
of hunting up rare records
here and there.
I remember the back of an Indian
appliance store in New York
where they had some Indian records,
and there was one copy of a raga
that we ended up putting on the record.
[Jaat Kahan Ho--India--Surshri]
[piano note]
[cymbal crash]
FERRIS: I would love
to have had a Bob Dylan piece.
But really there's only room
for at most one contemporary rock piece.
[electric guitar]
But you know you're up against
Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode,
which Bob Dylan himself would
admit is an awfully good single.
It may be just four simple words,
but it is the first positive proof
that other intelligent beings
inhabit the universe.
What are the four words, Cocuwa?
Send more Chuck Berry.
[laughter and applause]
The world is full of fantastic music,
and it goes without saying
there's a lot more great music
that's not on the Voyager record
than there is on it.
Which is a good thing, too,
I mean, if you imagine
living on a planet
that was so pathetic
that it only had 90 minutes
of decent music.
In the summer of 1977,
final preparations for two
launches began in Florida.
When it was launched,
it was of course all folded up,
it was like origami.
LOCATELL: Here was this almost
unexpected encapsulation.
I mean, we knew that we were
going to be encapsulated,
but the emotional effect on that
was kind of surprising,
I noticed that
in just looking around me.
I realized that this was the last time
any of us were going to see
the spacecraft with eyes.
And, um, that's a f...
that's a fairly moving experience.
[picture flash sounds]
Journalists converged on Cape Canaveral
to cover a once in a lifetime mission.
When the reporters came to the launch,
they all wanted to know more
about the record.
Most of the press release drawings
show the other side of the spacecraft
so you can't see the record.
There was always a lot of
ambiguity in NASA about this.
There's no question that
the Voyager record is useless
from a scientific standpoint,
and the officials reluctantly
arranged a press conference.
[polka music plays]
The press conference was a joke really.
It was held in a hotel room
separated by one of those
accordion folding barriers
from what was literally,
as memory serves me,
a Polish wedding reception.
We did the whole press conference
with the oompah sound of
a wedding reception next door.
But I think the public seemed to get it.
[polka music plays]
Environmental control, ready.
MAN: Roger.
We actually launched Voyager 2 first,
and this gave the media,
uh, drove them nuts.
We launched Voyager 1 later,
but it was launched
on a faster trajectory,
so it overtook Voyager 2
in December of 1977.
From that point on, Voyager 1
always got to the planet
before Voyager 2,
and the press was happy,
they understood it.
We have just had a report
from John Casani,
the Voyager project manager,
that we'll be able
to count down at 10:25.
[gentle guitar music]
After five years of planning,
the assembly of the spacecraft's
65,000 parts
and untold mathematical calculations,
it all came down to this.
[gentle guitar music]
Five, four, three, two, one.
We have ignition and we have lift-off.
You see those solids ignite,
and you are really not prepared
for what's about to occur.
[gentle guitar music]
The sound waves then catch up
and then this forceful shaking,
the body is actually moved
in resonance with this energy,
shaking it, right.
[audio of rocket taking off]
We were sitting in bleachers,
and they keep you pretty far
from the launch vehicle
because they can explode, and
it's basically, it's a big bomb.
So there's a little bit
of holding your breath and
wanting to make sure you see it
get that first little motion
off the pad starting into space.
[atmospheric guitar music]
We were all thinking this thought.
There it goes, it's going to be
out there to represent us
for the next five billion years.
[audio of crowd cheering and clapping]
There were outbursts of joy.
We were on our way!
And then we launched it,
and then other things went crazy.
[piano music]
[radio noises]
The spacecraft began to do things
that we had no expectation
that it would have done.
Voyager was not in control of itself,
it's just riding this big rocket,
and that was shaking it in such a way
that it thought it was failing,
and so it started
switching off various boxes,
changing to the back-up this,
to the back-up that.
Trying to figure out why
all this stuff was happening.
CASANI: As the launch vehicle
leaves the launchpad,
it has to roll through a certain angle
to get to the right direction
for departure,
and the rate that it rolls at
is a much higher rate
than the spacecraft would ever
normally experience flying,
and so the gyro hits the stops.
Us poor people on Earth,
we're like what is it doing?
CASANI: For a couple of days
it was a real nail-biter.
People were asking us,
have you lost the spacecraft
and we would say we don't know for sure
because we didn't know for sure.
And the headline read "Mutiny in Space".
The Voyager spacecraft had decided
it just didn't want
to follow the instructions
that its human controllers
were giving it
and it was going to do
what it wanted to do.
BELL: So early in the
mission it's like, oh, man,
is this mission going to be
plagued with problems?
Is there some fundamental flaw
in the design?
That was a cliff hanger.
That was the end of the mission.
It could have been
the end of the mission.
Fortunately, the person
who had written that code
was able to say this is OK,
it's doing this, it tried that,
it's doing this, it tried that
and calm everyone else down.
[bird sounds]
The limits were set simply too tight.
It needed to be able
to wiggle more and vibrate more.
[bird sounds]
NARRATOR: Finally stabilized,
Voyager 2 was bound for Jupiter.
The launch of Voyager 1
was coming up fast,
so the team scrambled
to fine-tune the spacecraft's software
to head off another mutiny.
With the launch window closing soon,
Voyager 1 finally took off.
But rocket science
is famously complicated.
Centaur 6, Titan Centaur 6
has lifted off at 8:56 from here
at the Cape Canaveral
Air Force Station...
We're thinking everything's OK,
and then we begin to hear
that something wasn't right.
I looked over at him
and he looked like he was
a little worried, you know.
And I said what's the matter, Charley?
And he says I don't know,
I don't think we're
going to make it, you know.
There was a leak in the propellant line,
and we were losing propellant overboard,
so while it was burning,
propellant was escaping
from the launch vehicle
and second stage never got
to deliver its full thrust
because it ran out of fuel.
STONE: And so, the upper stage
which was a Centaur...
liquid hydrogen and oxygen stage...
had to make up for that.
And the Centaur is the stage
that's doing the guidance,
so the Centaur knows
that it's not reaching
the required velocity,
and when it separates
from the second stage
it knows it has to burn longer
to add more velocity.
The Centaur had to use
1,200 pounds of extra propellant.
Now we're all thinking
is it going to have enough
left in the tanks
or is it going to run out of fuel?
Fortunately, it had three and
a half seconds of thrusting left
before it had run to fuel depletion.
Three and a half seconds,
so Voyager 1 just barely made it.
It wouldn't have gotten enough velocity
to get to Jupiter, you know,
so instead of getting
to Jupiter, you know,
we'd have gotten almost to Jupiter
and then we'd come back toward the sun,
which would not have been good.
[Gallagher & Lyle "Breakaway"]
I watch the distant lights
go down the runway
Disappear into the evening sky
Oh, you know I'm with you
on your journey
Never could say goodbye
LOCATELL: And then of course,
you know, there's the thought
that it's out of our hands.
Now the major reason for this
mission was about to unfold,
that is the science.
But our role as keepers,
as progenitors, as...
our role had been finished.
[Gallagher & Lyle "Breakaway"]
Though I won't stop you,
I don't want you to
Break away
Fly across your ocean
Break away
Time has come for you
Break away
Fly across your ocean
Break away
Time has come
[radio signals and white noise]
Thanks to the dedicated work
of hundreds of the world's best
scientists and engineers,
the twin Voyagers had at last
embarked on their odyssey
across the solar system.
The first leg was almost
400 million miles to Jupiter.
You can never really imagine...
you can try, but you can
never really imagine
what mother nature
will actually have in store
when you get there.
[classical music]
[classical music]
realizing that a human life ago,
less than 100 years ago, 87 years ago,
the universe consisted of one,
of one galaxy,
our Milky Way galaxy,
in a static eternal universe
with eternal empty space.
We didn't know about the other
hundred billion galaxies
a single human lifetime ago.
[classical string melody]
In January 1979,
Voyager 1 was coming up on its
first planetary encounter,
and Voyager 2 was four months behind.
[classical string melody]
It seems like time really flew.
I don't think we really fully understood
before the first Jupiter encounter
just how intense it was going to be.
No, we didn't.
We found out.
You start working on a mission in 1972,
you launch in 1977,
all of that there's no science,
it's all getting ready.
And then March '79... the flood.
[piano music]
[piano music]
The encounters, they creep up on you.
LINICK: When we were
approaching, every picture
was the greatest picture
ever taken of Jupiter.
In the beginning,
it would be just a little dot
getting bigger on the screen every day,
and as we would get closer and closer
the images became more dramatic.
Incredibly strange and beautiful,
and now by Voyager revealed
in all of its splendor.
TERRILE: That acceleration
as you're approaching encounters
is really something that becomes
very, very exciting.
We called it drinking
out of a fire hose, you know,
you're trying to take a little sip,
and this torrent of data is coming out.
Would someone care to speculate
what you would say to Galileo Galilei
if he walked into the room today?
SMITH: How... how,
how are you able to live so long?
I think Galileo...
STONE: Jupiter is more than
ten times the diameter of Earth,
it's huge, and it's mainly
hydrogen and helium,
there are no solid surface
on these planets.
These planets are liquid,
gas and liquid deep inside.
The gas is compressed
the farther down you go,
and it gets very hot indeed
and you would melt, vaporize, in fact,
if you tried to fly through Jupiter.
Let me first modify your statement,
not that it was wrong...
INGERSOLL: The atmospheric
scientists got long-range views
because we weren't looking
at tiny moons,
we were looking at the big planet,
and so we could see things going on
before the other groups
could see things,
and we were always the first
to start shouting.
SMITH: Even to this day
we don't fly color detectors.
You get a much higher-resolution
image in black and white,
and so when we want to make color,
we take them through different filters
and then on the ground
you put it together
and make a color image out of it.
[low dramatic electronic rhythm music]
You go to Jupiter
and you have a storm that's been
around for more than 300 years,
that's the Great Red Spot.
You could fit two or three
Earths inside it.
When Voyager started getting
close-up images,
we realized that it was very active,
and that deepened the mystery
of how these big storms could even exist
with all this turbulence going on.
SMITH: It was swallowing up
clouds and spitting out others.
We knew that it was a vortex,
but to see it in action...
NARRATOR: Another feature
of Jupiter's dynamic environment
posed a great danger to Voyager.
Powerful radiation might destroy
the spacecraft's electronics.
Every day you're wondering
did we build the spacecraft well enough?
Did we anticipate
all the possible things
that could go wrong?
[low dramatic electronic rhythm music]
BELL: You're approaching
this monster magnetic field,
this monster radiation
environment on purpose,
because you need to get close
because you want to see
all the little moons
and the clouds and the storms
and you want to slingshot on to Saturn,
but you just don't know
if you're going to survive.
Thing gets fried, you lose the mission.
Still out there physically
intact probably,
but unable to communicate
with it, the mission's over.
LOCATELL: Two months before
shipping to the Cape for launch,
the scientists were predicting
that the magnetic fields around Jupiter
were intense enough that they
would accelerate particles.
Whoa! We were hearing
initially 40,000 volts,
that would be the end of our spacecraft.
Cabling on these appendages
were conductors
that would take these destroying pulses
and just feed them right
into our systems and kill us,
so we needed to ground everything.
We didn't have time
to go through the normal design reviews,
so in order to get this
protection done quickly enough,
an ad hoc team was formed
and we did some things
that were out of the ordinary,
very out of the ordinary.
I can remember asking
one of the technicians
to go out and buy aluminum foil.
It was the only material
that was available to us.
Normally our procurement
of spacecraft hardware supplies,
materials, are a much more
sophisticated process.
We're actually cutting continuous strips
and then cleaning them
with wipes and alcohol
and then finally wrapping these
on all of our exterior cabling,
but yeah, same material
that's in your Christmas turkey.
I don't think we created
any shortage per se.
It may have been a local shortage
in the local grocery store
for a few days
until they reordered right.
Your turkey wrapping
is protecting Voyager,
and now fast forward, you know,
did we know whether we had done enough?
[radiation sounds Voyager
recorded at Jupiter]
Voyager survived the onslaught
and went on to record signals
that led to a discovery.
If you had the right kind of antennas
on your ears, you could go out
and hear what we record.
I'm going to call them radio sounds
because we have to detect them
with antennas.
Amazingly we heard all kinds of sounds.
[whistling frequency sounds]
These things that go,
[whistling sound] like that.
Yeah, whistlers mean lightning.
There are lightning flashes at Jupiter
that would go halfway
from the east coast of the United States
to the west coast.
That was the first detection
of lightning
on a planet other than Earth.
The two Voyagers were poised
to study Jupiter's little known moons.
[background music,
fast strings with slow piano chords]
[high pitched radio noises]
Having picked up 36,000 miles an hour
from Jupiter's gravity assist,
the spacecraft were now traveling fast.
[background music,
fast strings with slow piano chords]
When you're on a flyby mission,
there ain't no second chance.
We were getting pictures,
they were getting better and better,
and you could begin to see detail
as these moons got bigger.
You know the dread you have
is that you don't want to see
a lot of worlds that look
like Earth's moon.
Let's face it, it's dull.
I think everyone figured they would be
just battered ice-balls, you know,
kind of like the highlands of the moon,
nothing but impact craters.
And when we saw Callisto,
basically it's totally hammered, right,
it's saturated with impact craters.
Ganymede shows a lot of
interesting grooves and ridges,
but it's pretty blasted
with impact craters.
Every crater lasts for eons
because no forces were present
to resculpt the surface.
The first two moons were dormant worlds.
And then as we went into the inner two.
KOHLHASE: You could not see
craters on either one of them.
Well, this was encouraging,
because now we think maybe this mission
is going to find a lot of diversity.
BELL: Discovering this
billiard ball smooth icy crust
of Europa with cracks in it
and what looked like plates of ice
that might be moving
relative to each other,
the best explanation for that
is that there's a thick ocean
of liquid water, salty water
underneath that icy crust.
More ocean water
than on the entire Earth,
probably two or three times.
It's the largest ocean
in the solar system
in a moon going around Jupiter.
And then of course, you know,
kind of the showstopper
for Voyager, we get to Io.
TERRILE: Io, of course,
Io was the star of the show
and we didn't learn that
until after the encounter.
[soft piano music]
Everyone had gone home,
and Linda Morabito,
an engineer whose job
was to find out the positioning
and the orbit of the spacecraft,
noticed some bumps on images of Io.
I was on the mission
as a mission navigator,
and our job involved just looking back
over the shoulder of the spacecraft
to say, OK, one more picture
of the realm of Jupiter,
so it wasn't high-priority work.
It was an optical navigation image,
and Linda saw this strange thing
on the limb.
An enormous object emerged, enormous.
And the first thing I said
to myself... What is that?
And I'm like it looks
like another satellite
in the picture emerging from behind Io.
An object that size,
at that range, at that distance,
would have been seen from Earth,
it was sufficiently large.
I felt with certainty,
it's the only thing I knew,
that I was seeing something
that had never been seen before.
This was an umbrella-shaped plume
rising 250 kilometers
above the surface of Io
with volcanic activity.
[soft piano music]
I found the very first evidence
of active volcanism
on a world beyond the Earth.
[soft piano music]
STONE: It was so hard
to believe that a little moon
could have 10 times
the volcanic activity of Earth,
which was the only known
active volcanoes
in the solar system were here on Earth.
And then there's Io.
Suddenly we had realized
this was a different journey we were on.
Io's volcanoes can shoot lava
over 200 miles into space.
These eruptions are powered
by Jupiter's gravity,
which endlessly compresses
and releases the moon.
I wanted to say one other thing,
we've been saying that perhaps
there's some funny way
in which Jupiter gobbles up all
the things that are coming in
and doesn't let Io be hit by any.
Well, we aimed a spacecraft
and went very close,
and had we missed we would have
made the first impact crater.
SODERBLOM: The flyby
is basically a week-long affair
that's 24 hours a day.
It's intense.
There will be a Voyager report
in 30 seconds.
[electric guitar music]
Instant science,
because there's going to be
a press conference that night.
This picture comes down,
and you've got three hours
to figure out what's going on
and then tell the world about it.
Oh, no pressure there, right?
[heavy guitar music]
The confines of being a piece of biology
got in the way of that.
I mean, you got hungry,
you got tired, you know,
you had to go to the bathroom,
I mean, you're going to miss something,
you don't want to miss anything
because every 48 seconds
a new image would come down.
[heavy guitar music]
INGERSOLL: No one got any sleep
during one of these flybys
when the spacecraft
would go zooming past.
The photo labs were working
day and night,
and people were sleeping in their cars.
[heavy guitar music]
way too exciting to... to sleep.
[heavy guitar music]
[heavy guitar music ends and fades out]
During its Jupiter encounter,
Voyager revealed a feature
of the giant planet
never seen before.
Jupiter had something in common
with its flashier neighbor, Saturn.
in charge of the camera came in,
and he was like, Candy,
what have you done?
What is the matter with our camera?
And I looked at it and went,
ah, it's Jupiter's ring.
It went from being
you've broken the camera
to, "This is the first picture
ever of Jupiter's ring."
[atmospheric piano music]
Jupiter was a game-changer.
Jupiter reset all the registers.
Now we're really up for something.
And to know that this was just
the very, very beginning
of this journey.
If we're blown away by Jupiter,
just wait until we get to Saturn.
[electronic version
of atmospheric motif]
NARRATOR: The journey to Saturn
would take over a year
and bring Voyager and its message
one tiny step closer to other stars
where, just possibly,
intelligent aliens might discover it.
[atmospheric music on strings]
[atmospheric rhythmic music]
The Golden Record contained
the call of a humpback whale
and greetings in 55 human languages.
Most were recorded
at Cornell University,
where Carl Sagan was
professor of astronomy.
[atmospheric rhythmic music]
My father was Carl Sagan,
and my mother is Linda Salzman Sagan,
and she's a writer and an artist
and she designed
the iconic Pioneer plaque,
she actually drew it,
and she's the one
who got all the greetings
for the Voyager Golden Record.
I like to think of her,
that she kind of put together
a kind of a choir of voices
of greetings to the stars.
[recordings of voices
with rock music plays]
The greetings to the universe
are almost like proto-tweets,
the first tweets,
keep it short, keep it simple,
and there was a limit to what
they could put on the record.
It's like kind of a tasting menu.
It's enough to get the aliens
to understand that, um, we're diverse.
My parents wanted a child
to have a voice of one of the voices,
and they just came to me one day
and said, Nick, if you'd like
to leave a message to aliens
if they happen to exist,
what would you like to say to them?
[tape rewinding]
Hello from the children of planet Earth.
NICK SAGAN: "Oh, hello from
the children of planet Earth,"
that's what I would say to aliens.
They loved that, and so it's
like great, let's record you.
It's a bit of a blur.
Like the only thing that I know
that I remember from that time
is those knobs
and the little recording level
that goes into the red
if you speak too much,
this 70s, kind of, um...
so I remember that,
and I remember watching
the needle move as I spoke
and seeing where it got,
oh, that got close to the red
but actually didn't go into the red,
OK, that's probably good.
And that was that.
And then I, you know,
drank my apple juice
and went back to my books.
It was really not
till considerably later
that the kind of enormity of
what that meant actually hit me.
[greetings in various languages]
[greetings in various languages]
Well, that brings up the whole question,
is there anybody out there?
Listen, there are, give or take,
200 billion stars
in the Milky Way galaxy.
There are about 200 billion
galaxies in the universe,
or at least in the universe
we know about.
It's a pretty small spacecraft,
and it's a pretty big universe.
If you take a piece of sky
the size of a soda straw
up there in the Big Dipper
in that tiny piece of what
we thought was blank sky,
there's thousands of galaxies.
And each one of those galaxies
is filled with billions of stars.
That's just the soda straw,
and now you imagine the whole sky filled
with thousands upon thousands
upon thousands of galaxies,
each of which is billions
and billions of stars,
there's a lot of possibility out there.
[atmospheric guitar music]
There has to be other civilizations,
the numbers just compel it.
It would be almost
statistically impossible
for there not to be other life forms
and other life forms that have evolved
to a state of intelligence.
But the chance that an intelligent alien
might encounter Voyager
also hinges on another factor...
the sheer vastness of space.
The bigger you think space is,
the less probable it is
you're going to find them
because they're needles
in infinite haystacks.
KRAUSS: If you want to realize
how empty our galaxy is,
the nearest galaxy to our own
is Andromeda,
it's about two million light years away.
It's on a collision course
with us right now,
and in five billion years
that galaxy's going to collide
with our own.
And you might say, oh, no, oh, no,
but it turns out space is,
even in our galaxy,
it's mostly empty space.
When our two galaxies collide,
almost no stars will hit any other star.
CASANI: There's just a lot of
room out there, a lot of room.
BAGENAL: Once you start getting
into the astronomical scales,
our solar system is pretty tiny,
and so this adventure of Voyager
which seems so remote and distant
for this little spacecraft
to go out to the giant planets
is really just exploring
the tiniest closest neighborhood
when you start thinking
about cosmic scales.
The distances are almost unfathomable.
These were the fastest spacecraft
that had ever been built
and launched and flown,
and they're travelling
at ten miles per second.
You wouldn't even see it, right?
And yet, even at those
unfathomable by Earth standard speeds,
it takes decades,
decades to get out there
into the outer solar system.
[music playing]
HAMMEL: I'd like to know
the answer, are we alone?
I'd like to know the answer
to that question.
[music playing]
FERRIS: The big division
with extraterrestrial life
is not space, it's time.
[music playing]
KRAUSS: In our galaxy,
our sun is relatively young.
The galaxy's about 12 billion years old,
our sun's four and a half
billion years old,
there are many stars
that are a lot older,
therefore, you could have
imagined some civilization
around such a star that might
have watched our Earth form
over the last
four and a half billion years.
Well, over that last
four and a half billion years,
the only evidence of intelligent life
would have been in the last
fifty or sixty years
by watching Star Trek or I Love Lucy
or whatever signals we sent out,
so even if you knew,
even if someone told you
look at that star,
and then look at the third rock
from that star,
and that's where
you're going to find life.
Even if they knew which object
to look for,
there's only a 50-year period
over five billion years almost
where you'd be able to find
intelligent life.
NICK SAGAN: If we're alone,
then we're truly unique,
and how did that happen and why us
and how are we so special
and yet in such a kind of far-flung
kind of humdrum part of the universe?
And if we're not alone,
how did we all get here
and can we learn about ourselves
by these other groups out there
and what are they like
and are they the creatures
of our dreams or our nightmares?
[music playing]
In the fall of 1980,
Voyager got its first close
views of the planet Saturn.
[light piano music plays]
We started off with images
that were probably no better
than what you can get from the ground,
and then it keeps getting better
and better and better
as you get closer and closer.
What are we going to see
when we get really close?
SPILKER: Having seen Saturn
in a telescope with the rings
just looking like these little
tiny ears on either side,
to now seeing detail and
the beauty of Saturn's rings,
you know, looking like,
almost like the grooves
on a phonograph record.
The rings of Saturn, what are they?
Billions of icy particles,
some the size of a house.
They're enormous, much wider
than many Earths strung together
but less than a kilometer thick.
We get there and we find
that it's a blizzard of features
throughout the rings,
and it got very complex.
[guitar music]
We become junkies who...
This is how you become
a planetary flyby junkie,
it's because you've gone through
one of them
and you just know
it's the greatest feeling
and you want to keep doing it
again and again.
SMITH: At some point,
perhaps a year or so from now,
it may be possible to put
all of this into perspective,
but right at the moment I cannot recall
being in such a state of euphoria
for any previous planetary encounter,
including our two remarkable
Voyager encounters at Jupiter.
[electric guitar music]
[electric guitar music]
The largest moon of Saturn,
Titan's the most extraordinary place.
There's a dense methane atmosphere
where a complex organic
chemistry has been going on
for perhaps billions of years,
and we are in a moment
of extraordinary discovery.
We had both spacecraft programmed
to do identical missions at Saturn,
and that was the prime mission
and it involved Titan.
BELL: There's a huge amount
of scientific interest in Titan
because many people think
that early in our own history,
our own planet may have been like that
with very little oxygen,
lots of hydrocarbons,
very thick, different, smoggy atmosphere
that was changed dramatically
on our planet by life,
so if you want to understand
the starting conditions,
go study Titan.
If Voyager 1 was successful at Titan,
Voyager 2, which is nine months
behind going to Saturn,
would be free to continue to
Uranus and to go on to Neptune.
But it depended upon Voyager 1
succeeding at Titan.
TERRILE: Because Voyager 1
had to be in a certain place
in order to pass Titan,
it couldn't go on to Uranus and Neptune.
There was just no way
to bend its trajectory
to go anywhere else.
STONE: Voyager 2 would have
done exactly that same thing
if Voyager 1 had failed,
we would have gone like this,
no more planets.
That would have been really tough.
You gonna try for Titan again
and give up two other worlds...
Uranus and Neptune?
BELL: So there was a lot
of pressure on Voyager 1.
Mostly what we looked at
was a giant ball of brown smog
with some sort of electric blue
hazes above it.
With the Voyager camera,
you couldn't see through
the clouds and haze.
[radio chatter]
But the radio signal from the spacecraft
passed through the atmosphere
of the moon,
and that gave them a measure
of the pressure at the surface
and also the temperature at the surface,
and so we learned a lot about
Titan from that radio signal.
Voyager 1 revealed a world
at nearly 300 degrees
below zero Fahrenheit
that might have lakes of liquid methane
under its smoggy atmosphere.
Voyager 1 had succeeded.
And shortly after that,
NASA Headquarters agreed
that we should continue with Voyager 2
on its Uranus trajectory.
Voyager 1, its planetary mission over,
sped away from the plane of the planets.
Voyager 2... in part to get
on its trajectory to Uranus...
would have to fly dangerously
close to Saturn's rings.
[music playing]
BELL: We're getting pictures and
other data back from Voyager 2.
But at some point in time,
it had to go behind the planet,
and that blocks us from getting
radio signals to the Earth,
and that happened to be
in the middle of the night.
It was a period of time, several hours,
that everybody knows we're going to be
out of contact with the spacecraft.
Everybody's expecting
to pop champagne corks
and say hey, we made it,
and all the data's on the tape recorder
because it couldn't be
transmitted to the Earth,
and instead it pops
out of the other side,
and there's all these
crazy error signals
coming from the spacecraft.
Something bad has happened.
[machines beeping]
Something happened
right around ring-plane crossing,
and the images that were
coming back were blank.
People thought maybe it crashed
into the rings of Saturn.
Is this it, is it dead?
Ladies and gentlemen,
we can start the briefing.
[tapping microphone]
I wanted to make a very brief statement.
We do have a problem on board
the Voyager 2 spacecraft.
The spacecraft has a problem.
The scan platform operating mechanism
is not operating properly.
SPEAKER: Make sure we
understand where we're headed
for the following instruments
are mounted on the platform,
the wide-angle camera,
the narrow-angle camera,
the infrared instrument,
the ultraviolet instrument
and the photopolarimeter.
A frozen scan platform
could be a fatal, crippling event.
SMITH: Yeah, that was
the darkest, the darkest day
of the whole mission.
There is circumstantial evidence...
I came into the auditorium,
and there was just gloom
on everybody's face.
You're beginning to speculate.
I quickly learned what had happened.
The scan platform had frozen.
The problem is not with the camera,
it's with the articulated platform
that moves all of the instruments.
Our cameras, as far as we know,
are working just fine,
it's just that we're taking
lots of pictures of black space.
The rest of the Saturn mission
and Uranus and Neptune were dead.
And seeing everything
that we were planning just gone,
just suddenly gone.
All of the science
that we had hoped to do,
and Uranus and Neptune...
there were no other spacecraft
that were going to be going there.
It was up to Voyager to do it,
and all of a sudden it looked
as though Voyager
was not going to do it.
It was devastating, it was...
[electronic inquisitive music]
So, we've analyzed the slew data.
It took a couple of days
while the engineering team went
to work diagnosing the problem.
We are going to command an azimuth slew
and an elevation slew
to the Saturn position...
It turns out the scan platform
has small motors to rotate it,
and we could run it at slow speed...
tick, tick, tick, tick...
fast... medium speed or very fast.
(makes turning noise)
We were of course wanting
to look at lots of places,
so we had the thing looking
lots of places,
and the lubrication wasn't
adequate and it just jammed.
It was frozen sort of like a car
stuck in the, stuck in the snow.
You try to go forward
or backward little bit...
lil... and keep working on it
and try to get it out,
and that's what we did
with the scan platform.
We would try to push it
a little bit in one direction
and it would yield a little bit,
and then we'd push it
in the other direction,
and it would yield a little bit more,
and then we kept doing that
back and forth, back and forth,
and finally that was enough
to get the lubrication into the gears.
SODERBLOM: It was freed up
and back came the spacecraft
and back came the imaging system,
and there was Saturn on exit.
SMITH: [laughing]
["Us & Them," Pink Floyd]
TERRILE: We were looking at
the shadow of Saturn on the rings,
and it was clearly
from this wild, crazy angle.
Wow. Holy cow, we're on
the other side of Saturn.
["Us & Them," Pink Floyd]
Us and them
And after all we're only
ordinary men...
We felt like we were there.
Nobody even thought about it.
Voyager was part of us.
Me and you...
All of planetary exploration to me
is a story about longing, it's
a longing to know ourselves.
It's a longing to understand
the significance
of our own existence.
It's a longing to communicate,
to say to the universe
we're here, you know, know us.
You know, where are you?
Forward! He cried
from the rear and
the front rank died
And the general sat,
and the lines...
In the grooves of the Golden Record
was another gift from us to them.
[guitar music]
DRAKE: The Voyager record
has a set of pictures on it.
It depicts our civilization,
but we only had the ability
to do about a hundred pictures,
that was as much data as we could send,
so that was kind of hard.
It was a process of distillation.
You can't describe the Earth
in a hundred pictures.
You can't describe the Earth
in a thousand pictures,
but what art is about
is taking something that's small
but can represent the whole.
[guitar music]
We thought it was very important
to put some pictures
of humans nude on the record
to show just what our anatomy
and physiology was really like.
NASA had been seriously criticized
about the Pioneer plaque.
There were actually letters
to the editors of newspapers
saying that NASA
was sending smut to space.
NARRATOR: For Voyager,
NASA decided to play it safe.
Still, they gave the aliens
some hints about our bodies.
BELL: Now it's five years
of cruising out to Uranus.
STONE: Uranus would be
the most remote object yet
visited by a spacecraft,
and it's so remote
that it was not even known
until 200 years ago,
and it's a great distance out there,
and if we'd launched directly from Earth
it would have taken thirty years
to get there,
so we were very fortunate
that we could swing by Jupiter
and Saturn on our way.
SMITH: I've been trying
to figure this thing out
for the past 25 years,
and it's very frustrating in a telescope
to look at that tiny little disc,
so the next few days
are going to be very exciting.
[piano music]
Once we got beyond Saturn,
essentially the engineers
threw out the rulebook
and said how are we going
to make this work?
How are we going
to take pictures of planets
this far from the sun?
[piano music]
Voyager was the first
of a class of NASA spacecraft
that could be reprogrammed.
They could take what was on the computer
and just wipe it away
and give it a whole new set of software.
They trained the spacecraft to
pirouette like a ballet dancer,
basically you want to take
a picture of that thing
and it's going past you really fast,
so you spin the whole spacecraft
and follow it like this,
and so even though
it was darker at Uranus
and really dark at Neptune,
you could leave the shutter open
without smearing,
and that was just beautiful.
We had all of the rich set of goodies
from Jupiter and from Saturn,
but Uranus was... was unknown.
[xylophone music]
In January 1986,
Voyager 2 closed in on Uranus.
It would be by far
the most remote planetary
encounter ever attempted.
[xylophone music]
It was like taking something
that was almost fictional,
almost mythological,
and then seeing it as a real object.
BELL: Spacecraft flew through
that system like a bull's eye
because Uranus is tilted on its side,
with this beautiful aquamarine
blue methane atmosphere,
and all these pictures,
every single one of them is like whoa!
And you could hear people just whoa!
And everybody would be doing something
and somebody would go whoa!
And everybody would turn and look up.
Oh, my gosh, look at that!
There was no Internet,
there was no news stream
going out to live CNN.
The only way to experience
that sensation
of being one of only
a small group of people
who saw a point of light become a world,
the only way to experience it
was to be in that room.
Well, just about two minutes ago,
Voyager 2 passed through
its closest approach to Uranus.
The new ring is right here.
Now, I don't...
you're telling me you can't see it.
I can.
Dr. Soderblom,
as you whizzed through your explanation,
I couldn't put it all together,
could you try that again?
Slower and a few more details.
I thought that was pretty slow.
[guitar and strings music]
Every time we arrived at a new planet
there were always surprises,
even though we had gotten a lot smarter.
For instance, before Voyager,
all the magnetic fields
have the magnetic pole near
the rotation axis of the planet,
and that was true for Jupiter,
it was true for Saturn,
and then we flew by Uranus and
the pole was near the equator.
There's been a lot of speculation
about the magnetosphere of Uranus.
Would there be one,
what would it be like?
And the magnetosphere of Uranus
is far more weird and wonderful...
BAGENAL: We found
the planet's tipped on its side,
but the magnetic field is then tipped
relative to the spin axis,
so you have this huge contortion
in the magnetic field
as the planet spins around,
just bizarre.
At that point in its orbit,
the planet didn't look exciting,
and part of that is Uranus itself,
holding its secrets back.
That had to be, I guess, one of the...
well, disappointments in that Uranus
was not more photogenic than it was.
It was actually pretty blah.
Ah... poor Uranus.
Poor Uranus.
[guitar and piano music]
[guitar and piano music]
The big stars of the Uranus encounter
were actually the moons.
[guitar music]
If you're going to go to Neptune,
you still have to use Uranus
for gravity assist.
The gravity assist aiming point
at Uranus
just happened to be pretty close
to the orbit of Miranda.
If Uranus has been the last stop,
the scientists might have wanted
to go to a larger moon,
which ironically, I don't see
how anything could have been
any more interesting than Miranda...
[string music]
It looked like a jumbled-up mess.
[string music]
HAMMEL: This moon looked like
it had been ripped to pieces
and then just sort of shoved
back together again.
SMITH: Whoa!
Come look at this.
SPILKER: Going up to the screen
and pointing and saying,
"did you... look at that, look at that."
No... nobody was ready for Miranda.
There were enormous cliffs and gashes,
one of them, you can see
the edge of a cliff,
it's got to be ten kilometers tall.
The gravity on Miranda is so weak,
if you jumped off that cliff,
you could read the newspaper
on the way down,
but when you hit the bottom
you'd still be going
a hundred miles an hour,
so it probably wouldn't...
it would be the last newspaper you read.
NARRATOR: At Uranus, Voyager
detected intense radiation belts
and discovered two new rings
and ten tiny moons.
BAGENAL: We were just about
to present all our results,
we were all about to have
the big final finale
press conference and...
came back from breakfast,
and I went to go watch
the shuttle being launched...
We have main engines start...
4... 3... 2... 1... and lift-off!
Lift off of the 25th
space shuttle mission,
and it has cleared the tower.
...and we thought, OK, great,
we'll watch the shuttle launch
and then we'll go
to the press conference,
but of course that was Challenger.
Engines throttling up.
Three engine now at 104%.
Challenger, go with throttle up.
Roger, go with throttle up.
[soft piano music]
People were just like astonished.
This gasp of like, oh, my,
did you see that,
did it really blow up?
Because we had stopped in our meeting
so everyone could watch it,
and then there was just silence,
people were crying.
[soft piano music]
Well, what can you say?
You knew right away that
a bunch of people were dead.
Flight Throttle. Go ahead.
RSO reports vehicle exploded.
DODD: And then of course
they showed replays and replays
and replays over and over
and over again.
We have no downlink.
OK, everybody, just stay
off the telephones.
Make sure you maintain all your data,
start pulling it together.
The Challenger accident happened
as we were receding from Uranus.
I have this vivid memory
of picture after picture
of the crescent Uranus coming back
and the replay
of the Challenger explosion,
and it was just devastating.
RONALD REAGAN: Today is a day
for mourning and remembering.
Nancy and I are pained to the core
over the tragedy
of the shuttle Challenger.
We know we share this pain
with all of the people of our country.
This is truly a national loss.
I know it's hard to understand,
but sometimes painful things
like this happen.
It's all part of the process
of exploration and discovery.
It's all part of taking a chance
and expanding man's horizons.
The future doesn't belong
to the faint hearted,
it belongs to the brave.
[sad string music plays]
DODD: During these closest
approach time periods,
we would have hundreds
of reporters come to JPL,
and when the Challenger
exploded, everybody just left.
[nearly silent save for ring
of unattended microphone]
[piano music]
Those cosmic questions we hope to learn
by sending our machines out,
the very same questions
that you and I and every child
has asked themselves.
Where do we come from, are we alone,
what's the universe made of,
how will it end?
All of these basic questions
are the questions that drive science.
[piano music]
[machines beeping]
Finally at Neptune, Voyager has begun
the last of a decade's worth
of encounters
with the outer planets.
It was another three and a half years
to get out to Neptune.
They had to reprogram
the spacecraft again,
give it, teach it some new tricks,
to work in this even darker environment,
even colder environment.
If we take the Earth
being one astronomical unit
from the sun, or AU for short.
Neptune is 30 times that distance.
When we launched Voyager,
there was no capability to get
any images back from 30 AU.
That capability happened
all after launch.
It involved taking two 34-meter antennas
and adding them to a 70-meter antenna.
ready to run that observation.
STONE: It meant using the entire
Very Large Array in New Mexico,
27 antennas to collect
the very weak signal
that we could get back from 30 AU.
BELL: The flybys past Jupiter,
Saturn and Uranus
had sped up the spacecraft too,
so it's going even faster,
so enormous amounts
of pressure, and one shot.
[light keyboard music]
In the summer of 1989,
Voyager 2 finally came up
on the ice giant Neptune.
Thanks to slingshots at Jupiter,
Saturn and Uranus,
the trip was almost 20 years
shorter than a direct approach,
one without gravity assist.
[music playing]
There it was just sitting
out on the edge of our solar system
waiting for somebody to come out
and appreciate its beauty.
Just waiting for the day
that humans would get out there,
and go wow!
I had been taking pictures of Neptune
from the ground where
we couldn't see very much.
You know, in my head imagining
what it might look like
and seeing that turned
into reality, it's a rush.
Looking at this blue, bright blue orb,
it was evocative of the Earth,
which was bizarre for the last
planet that we were flying by.
I was a meticulous log taker
and I would make little
notations in these logs
and I would draw little pictures,
and you could see
what's this little dark spot,
bright clouds, I'm like wow!
Wow! Exclamation point!
And I'd draw pictures and arrows.
The most surprising thing
was a giant dark spot.
Nobody had any idea that would be there.
It's huge.
It's like a hole in the planet.
So we called it The Great Dark Spot
because we're not very original
when it comes to names.
[electric guitar music]
We had to basically make a forecast
of the storms on Neptune
in order to point the cameras
during the last day,
and at the same time
there was a hurricane
off the east coast of the US,
and the weather forecasters
were trying to forecast that hurricane,
but they were trying to forecast
it twelve hours in advance
and they were having a lot of trouble
because the storm
kept changing position.
And we were just calmly plotting
points on graph paper
and then said, OK, two weeks from now,
this storm is going to be
right here and it usually was.
[electric guitar music]
At Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus,
the goal was to do a flyby
that would take the spacecraft
on to the next planet.
When it came to Neptune
we knew that that was the last planet
that we were going to fly by,
and so we could take
a different trajectory.
This allowed us to get a really
spectacular view of the rings
and then look back on the system
in a way that was quite beautiful.
TERRILE: Think about imaging
the rings of Neptune.
They have reflectivity which
is twice as dark as soot,
and the light that's falling on them
is a thousand times fainter
than on Earth.
So you have one one-thousandth the light
and you're trying to image something
which is twice as dark as soot
against a jet-black background.
SMITH: More than one ring can be
seen even in the raw images,
the so-called ring arcs,
and it seemed reasonable that
this was indeed the lost arc
that our imaging team raiders
were looking for.
CROWD: Oh dear!
Now you're going to turn on me, right?
KOHLHASE: We knew at Neptune
we wanted a close flyby of Triton,
which was a huge world around Neptune.
If you looked at them on the way in,
they weren't lined up.
One's up here, one's down here.
And so, what are you going to do?
Well, there was a way...
fly over the north pole,
very close to Neptune
to bend the spacecraft
so it would go down.
BELL: But the meant getting to
within just a few thousand miles
of the cloud tops skimming the surface.
And they had to hit that,
you know, exactly right.
There was a lot of concern
that we didn't know enough
about Neptune's atmosphere
to really be sure that
the spacecraft would not tumble.
Just a slight error in the calculations
and instead of skimming
across the cloud tops,
you're skimming into the clouds
and the spacecraft burns up.
Slight error the other way,
you go a little too far,
you don't bend enough,
maybe you run right into Triton
and crash, and that's the end
of the mission.
You don't have enough time,
you have to make your last best guess,
hit the send button.
[atmospheric suspenseful music]
It would have been just fascinating
to be hanging on
to that spacecraft, right?
Skimming over these beautiful
blue cloud tops of Neptune
and then as you come
over the pole of Neptune
seeing that big moon Triton rise up...
[atmospheric suspenseful music]
After several billion miles of journey
to get us to within a few kilometers
of where we needed to be,
it's just absolutely remarkable.
You know, threading
an incredible needle.
Southern hemisphere of Triton
is entirely covered with nitrogen ice,
and as we flew past,
we were able to look down
at markings on the surface
of the polar cap.
We were putting together
a mosaic of Triton's globe,
but we couldn't get things
to line up quite right.
Some of the dark streaks, two
in particular would not line up.
He's like just scratching his head,
like I have no idea
what's going on here.
This guy's one of the world's experts
on anything having to do
with planets and moons,
and he can't figure this out.
SODERBLOM: I said, well,
let's put it in a stereo viewer,
red and blue glasses.
And the images fused
into a three-dimensional model
and up popped these geysers.
[atmospheric suspenseful music]
SODERBLOM: And I said holy moly,
and so we knew what we had.
[music playing]
[music playing]
These plumes.
Black geysers spewing out this stuff.
The plumes extending out of the surface
for like kilometers.
We were seeing eruptions on a world
which should have been
just a frozen cinder.
The last place we would have expected
to see further dynamics,
further eruptions
was at a moon this remote
in the solar system.
Just because an idea's crazy,
it's not necessarily wrong.
CROWD: [laughter]
NARRATOR: Geysers.
Volcanoes on Io.
Hints of a giant ocean of liquid water
under Europa's icy crust.
Each of these features is
evidence of a source of energy.
And that's a prerequisite
for life as we know it.
We knew this was the last planet,
Voyager would explore
before it headed on
for the rest of its journey,
and so I think
the times together as a team,
the times to look at the pictures, talk,
meet together, became more precious.
I was passing by the secretary's desk
and she said, oh, Candy,
there's a reporter
that wants to talk to you.
And he said, the countdown clock
just went from minus,
counting down, to counting up.
Voyager's now leaving Neptune.
And he said how does that make you feel?
And in that moment,
I dissolved into tears.
[piano music]
After the spacecraft went past,
it turned around and looked back,
and there's this beautiful
crescent Neptune and Triton,
and people realized that's the end
of the planetary part of Voyager.
That's the last port of call,
the last thing we'll see in our
solar system is now behind us.
[piano music]
We could have enhanced the color a bit
to make a somewhat prettier picture,
but out of respect
to the Voyager spacecraft
we decided to show it to you
just as it is.
[piano music]
The way I looked at it
was gee, we did something really great.
Very, very successful mission.
A little weepy.
I mean it's... there was a lot of
energy put into this mission.
We have ignition and we have lift-off.
[piano music]
Years of intense effort.
It was the end of a sentimental journey.
[piano music]
We did it.
We pulled it off, and that's important.
It is.
["Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry]
Deep down in Lousiana
close to New Orleans
Way back up in the woods
among the evergreens
There stood a log cabin
made of earth and wood
Where lived a country boy
named Johnny B. Goode
We had a big party at JPL,
Chuck Berry was there,
so that was a good send-off for Voyager.
Go, go
Go, Johnny, go, go
Go, Johnny, go, go
Go, Johnny, go, go
Go, Johnny, go, go
Johnny B. Goode
[music ends]
Rockstar moment and sail on Voyager.
And I'm going to go get some sleep
or maybe I'll do
a little more dancing...
Thank you very much, Lou?
Meanwhile Voyager 1
is still kind of cruising out there,
getting farther and farther out,
and a number of folks on the team,
including Carl Sagan,
had this idea that before we
have to shut the cameras down,
let's turn around,
look back towards the sun
and let's take a picture
of our solar system
unlike any that had ever
been taken before.
And there was actually opposition to it.
They just didn't want to do it.
They couldn't get their heads around
what would be the point
of taking a picture
of the Earth and Jupiter and so on
because they're just going to be
little points of light.
So Carl being Carl
actually went all the way
to the NASA administrator
and got him to direct
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
to take this series of pictures.
Absolutely zero science in it.
Absolutely none.
From a unique vantage point,
nearly four billion miles away,
Voyager 1's cameras turned homeward
to take family snapshots.
It was Valentine's Day, 1990.
[music playing]
When we did our portrait
of each of the planets,
I was the first person
to look at the pictures
and I knew every blemish,
and so I could pretty quickly go
blemish, blemish, blemish,
and I thought, well, where's the Earth?
How could we... you know?
And then I realized
there was a lot of...
there were a lot of streaks
of light in that image,
and I realized finally
that the Earth was sitting
in one of those rays of light.
You know, I just sat there for a while
just kind of realizing wow,
that's the Earth, you know,
that's Voyager looking back
at the Earth,
and then once I had sort of recovered,
I started calling people.
I called Brad.
Brad, we got it,
called Carl, Carl, we got it.
Called my dad.
STONE: And so this is
a different kind of milestone
than the scientific milestones
we've had.
One that is really symbolic...
PORCO: I'm an imaging scientist,
so I first realized,
oh, this didn't turn out
the way we thought
it was going to turn out,
and my first impulse is to take my hand
and wipe away the dust, because
there was some dust on it.
Well, one of the pieces of dust
that I wanted to wipe away
was the Earth.
But it didn't matter
because in the hands of Carl,
he turned it into an allegory
on the human condition.
And the next slide.
The Earth in a sunbeam.
And in this color picture
you can see that it is in fact
less than a pixel,
and this is where we live,
on a blue dot.
On that blue dot,
that's where everyone you know
and everyone you ever heard of
and every human being who ever lived
lived out their lives.
I think this perspective
underscores our responsibility
to preserve and cherish that blue dot,
the only home we have.
NARRATOR: The two Voyagers
still communicate with Earth
nearly every day.
It takes huge antennas
to detect their faint signals,
now less than one trillionth of a watt.
The spacecraft continue to be tracked
as they begin the final part
of their mission,
to travel beyond the edge
of our solar system,
into interstellar space.
It's in this never travelled
region between the stars
that Voyager and its Golden Record
will have a chance of being discovered.
At the time we were designing Voyager,
interstellar space,
where the boundary was,
was totally unknown.
We had our eyes
on the interstellar mission.
Are we going to boost the spacecraft
to get out of our solar system
and into the galaxy?
It was a shot in the dark
because nobody knew how far.
Uncharted waters.
[inquisitive uplifting music]
BELL: The magnetic field of
the sun can only extend so far,
it's a bubble around our star,
all the stars have bubbles,
we can see the bubbles
around other stars out there,
so we know that they have bubbles.
Where does our bubble end?
Somewhere beyond Neptune
is the edge of the bubble
around our sun.
At the heliopause two forces balance...
the outward pressure of the solar wind
and the pressure of interstellar space.
But how far out it was, no one was sure.
We kept going
and years went by and years went by
and we don't detect
the interstellar medium.
[music continues]
Throughout the 1990s,
still didn't find
the edge of the bubble.
Throughout the 2000s,
still didn't find
the edge of the bubble,
and then finally in 2012 Voyager 1,
which is going the fastest,
which is the farthest,
started to see these funny things happen
to the squiggly lines.
This crazy spike.
And everybody goes, oh, is that it?
And then it goes back to normal.
And then it was just literally
one magical day in...
it was in August of 2012
that everything changed
and it was like pfff just...
popped out of the bubble.
Voyager 1 has left our solar system.
It's the first thing built by humans
that has left our solar system
and now it's in interstellar space.
[violin music]
NASA says that Voyager 1
has become the first man-made object
to reach interstellar space,
the cold dark region between stars.
And we've slipped the outermost grasp
of our solar system with Voyager 1,
the first human-made object
to venture into interstellar space.
It's a wonderful achievement, actually.
When you think of it, it's historic,
it's our first step out of our bubble
which has been around all the planets
and around the Earth
essentially forever,
and now finally some little
thing that we have built
has left that bubble and is
in the space between the stars.
It was like humanity
had just become an interstellar species.
It was like knocking on eternity's door.
When the Voyagers' power sources go dead
and when the spacecraft
can no longer send back
any useful information,
that's really the point
at which the Golden Record
becomes the primary function
of those missions,
that when everything else is turned off,
those records are still floating
somewhere in interstellar space,
completing the last part of the mission.
[splashing noise]
LOCATELL: The chance that
advanced intelligence beyond us
would detect oh, hey,
there is a radiating body
coming into our area,
let's go out and find out
what this bottle in the ocean,
what message it might have.
Now is that a grand mystery?
I love the optimism of it,
I love the idea that these are things
that are meaningful to us,
maybe you'll find them meaningful, too,
hypothetical alien, and yeah,
it just touches my heart.
One thing we know about a metal record
with these grooves engraved on it
is that information is good
for at least one billion years.
The inside of the record,
which was more protected
from cosmic rays,
two billion years or more.
BELL: There's no wind,
water, rain, weathering,
there's no planets or comets
that they're going to run into,
and over thousands, millions,
billions of years
they're predicted to remain
pretty intact.
NICK SAGAN: Because there's
no proof that there's anything
that Voyager's ever going to encounter,
ultimately, it's a story about us.
Voyager is rarely out of my thoughts.
Always some little part of me
is wondering where is Voyager tonight.
Whenever I look up at the night stars,
I look in the direction
that each of them is going.
SODERBLOM: There is never going
to be another mission like it.
It was the first and last
of its own kind.
KRAUSS: Maybe someday,
another being might find Voyager
and at least know of our existence.
It's highly unlikely,
but it's not impossible.
And that small possibility
surely gives us hope.
LOCATELL: Is the universe
any different than it was then?
But are we different?
The thrill of the discoveries,
reaching the heliopause,
completing the Grand Tour,
I mean man, our child has just made it.
[guitar/xylophone music]
We're the generation
that sent something out into space
that's not only going to outlive us,
it's going to outlive our star.
Four billion years from now when
our sun turns into a red giant,
Voyager is still going to be trucking
out there through the stars,
and the songs of our time
are going to be out there.
Chuck Berry is still out there...
We'll still be out there.
[contemporary guitar interpretation of
"Johnny B. Goode" plays over credits]
[music continues]
[music continues]
[music continues]