Mission Overview

The primary mission of the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft was to explore the outer planets of Jupiter and Saturn. Voyager 2 launched on August 20, 1977, from Cape Canaveral, Florida aboard a Titan-Centaur rocket. On September 5, Voyager 1 launched, also from Cape Canaveral aboard a Titan-Centaur rocket. The Voyager Interstellar Mission was the first to provide humankind with a close-up view of the outer planets. Between them, Voyager 1 and 2 explored all the giant planets of our outer solar system, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune; 48 of their moons; and the unique system of rings and magnetic fields those planets possess.

Relevance to Astrobiology

The twin Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft are now exploring reaches of space where nothing from Earth has flown before. The twin spacecraft are continuing on their more-than-37-year journey that began with their respective launches in 1977. Each spacecraft is now traveling further from the Earth and the Sun than Pluto.

After making a string of discoveries there — such as active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io and intricacies of Saturn’s rings — the mission was extended. Voyager 2 went on to explore Uranus and Neptune, and is still the only spacecraft to have visited those outer planets. The adventurers’ current mission, the Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM), will explore the outermost edge of the Sun’s domain. And beyond.

NASA Astrobiology Involvement

The Voyager mission has dramatically shaped our understanding of the Solar System and the potential for life on our system’s planets and moons. It was data from Voyager that first raised questions about the potential for liquid water beneath the icy crust of Jupiter’s moon Europa. Voyager also revealed that Saturn’s moon Titan was shrouded in a thick atmospheric haze, a finding that ultimately led to the development of the Cassini-Huygens mission. Astrobiologists today still use data from Voyager, revealing more and more clues about the worlds that circle the Sun beyond the Asteroid Belt.