Monday, August 14, 2017


There isn't a huge amount to say about this movie, despite it being 2 hours long. It is a sort of memorial to Voyager 1 and 2 as they emerge into interstellar space. Most of the movie is one person after another telling snippets of the story - most were involved in the actual preparation and launch 39 years ago but I have to confess that I lost track of who they all were. There were two stories going on - the first is about the Voyagers. Voyager 1 only saw two planets - Saturn and Jupiter - and was then sent off to deep space. 
Voyager 2, however, was a kind of mission within a mission - it (you can't anthropomorphize space craft - they don't like it) was sent on to check out Uranus and Neptune as well (Pluto had not been discovered when Voyager 2 left). Its amazing how 1970's tech - the onboard computers have as much power as the typical car key hob - managed to get these craft so precisely where they needed to be. There was a hairy moment when it went behind Uranus and when it came out the other side was just sending blank images - it turns out the platform on which the cameras are mounted had frozen in place - they had to use remote control to bring it back to life. Poor old Uranus didn't come out to well - as planets go, its a bit bland, visually. Luckily it had some interesting friends - one of its moons, Miranda, is extraordinary - cliffs ten or more kilometres high.
Neptune, on the other hand, was a shimmering deep blue sphere and its moon, Triton, despite being so cold (it is a long way from the sun and only 38 degrees Kelvin) it was sending geysers kilometres into the sky. Voyager 2 was less than 5,000 km from Neptune.
The scientists reckon that the Voyagers will go on for billions of years, taking energy from their environment, and will shortly (maybe in 50 years) be out of contact with Earth. This leads to the second story - the two time capsules sent with them, to represent us. These are metal long playing records (complete with mechanisms to pay them and instructions - but who knows whether they'll ever be found, let alone understood) - with a mixture of music, photos and messages from people around the world. The music is taken from lots of different countries and is generally traditional, but Chuck Berry is included. The team tried to get a Beatles song but they refused to license for outer space! Would it really matter if an unlicensed song was sent?

I think my favourite message was from a Chinese lady - she suggested that if "you have the time, you might like to call in"! Ooh - there was another joke: a member of the audience at some talk asked Carl Sagan what he'd say to Galileo if he walked in - "You're looking well - how did you do it?" 



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home