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Voyager's Grand TourIn the early days of the Space Age, scientists realized that given the right planetary alignments it might be possible to use the gravity of one planet to change the trajectory of a spacecraft and send it on to another planet without expending any fuel. This slingshot or gravity assist trajectory principle was first tested by Mariner 10, which used the gravity of Venus to slingshot its way to Mercury in 1974. A very rare planetary alignment would occur in the late 1970's allowing a spacecraft to visit all the outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) using gravity assists at each planet to send it on to the next. This unique alignment would not occur again for another 175 years! The initial ambitious plan, called the Grand Tour, was to send two pairs of spacecraft, one pair to visit Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto, the other to fly by Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune. However, the original plan was scaled back in the budget conscious early 1970's to just two less capable spacecraft visiting only Jupiter and Saturn, and Titan, Saturn's largest moon Taking advantage of this alignment would be two Voyager spacecraft, both beginning their long journeys in 1977. Voyager 2 launched first, on August 20, followed by Voyager 1 on September 5. Both spacecraft would first fly by Jupiter and use that planet's massive gravity to bend their trajectories to then fly by Saturn. Voyager 1 would also be targeted to fly by Saturn's moon Titan, which was known to have a dense atmosphere, a trajectory that would preclude any future planetary flybys. But the option was kept open, if Voyager 1's Titan flyby was successful, to retarget Voyager 2 to send it on to Uranus and maybe even Neptune - assuming it would survive that long! Just 13 days after its launch, Voyager 1 scored the first of its many firsts: at a distance of 7.25 million miles, it turned its camera back toward Earth and snapped the first ever photograph of the Earth-Moon system in a single frame, giving a sneak preview of the discoveries that lay ahead.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Johnson Space Center
Document Type
Uri, Joihn J.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
September 28, 2017
Publication Date
January 1, 2017
Subject Category
Lunar And Planetary Science And Exploration
Report/Patent Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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