Spacecraft that launched from Earth in the 1970s are still traveling on trajectories that led them out of our solar system and beyond. In a new study, scientists have predicted the future of these spacecraft, determining which stars the vehicles will pass, and how close they will get to these stars, within the next few million years.
On March 2, 1972, NASA launched its Pioneer 10 spacecraft, which would become the first craft to travel through the asteroid belt. About a year later, Pioneer 11 took flight. And in 1977, NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft launched, with Voyager 1 following behind a few weeks later. These spacecraft, in addition to NASA’s New Horizons probe, are the only spacecraft ever launched that are capable of reaching interstellar space. So far, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 have broken through that barrier.
However, if they continue on, Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11 and NASA’s New Horizons craft are all expected to leave the sun’s sphere of influence, called the heliosphere, and continue exploring through the interstellar medium.
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