Further and farther away by the minute (WHTM) — On September 5, 1977, The Voyager 1 spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral on a mission to photograph the planets Jupiter and Saturn.
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Thirteen days later, on September 18, Voyager 1 sent back the first of what would be thousands of first-of-its-kind images. But this picture didn’t aim at the outer planets and stars; instead, it looked back to Voyager’s home planet. It shows a crescent-shaped Earth and Moon, taken 7.25 million miles (11.66 million kilometers) from Earth.
This picture, showing both the Earth and Moon, was the first of our double planet system ever taken by a spacecraft.
The view of Earth shows eastern Asia, the western Pacific Ocean, and part of the Arctic. If you could imagine a 7.25 million-mile-long plumb line dropped from Voyager 1 to the planet’s surface at the exact second the picture was taken, the plumb bob would touch down on Mt. Everest, located at 25 degrees north latitude. (Unfortunately, the Mountain is on the night side of the planet, so you wouldn’t be able to see it.)
The Moon is at the top of the picture and beyond the Earth as viewed by Voyager. The Earth is many times brighter than the Moon, so the Moon was tweaked in a computer so you can see both bodies.
The photo was made from three images taken through color filters and then processed by the Image Processing Lab at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Voyager 1 continued onward, passing by Jupiter and Saturn, and became the first spacecraft to reach interstellar space. Now 46 years old, and originally expected to run for five years, it is still sending data back to Earth; how long it will continue to do so is uncertain. The estimates are the plutonium power source might be able to run the instruments for about a decade, more or less.
Let’s hope it’s more.