The Voyager probes have been in the news recently as the first Voyager launched has now left the bubble of weather in space that the sun forms around itself, meaning that both Voyagers 1 and 2 are now in interstellar space.
The background for these two probes is fascinating The year picked allowed the probes to accelerate using the motion of the planets. It’s likely that nothing will ever critically fail, they’ll just outlive the half-life of their nuclear fuels. Each holds golden records of information of life on Earth. As you can tell, I could go on.
The thing that is incredible about them from a human point of view is something that is often commented upon as only a sentence or two, but requires some context.
Over the course of history, humanity has achieved a lot. We have built the 7 wonders of the world, created countries, created cultures, travelled into space and landed on alien worlds. Given that we have only been around for approximately 300 thousand years, we’ve done well.
In the end though, it’s likely that all the wonders we have created will be lost. In 4 – 5 billion years the sun will end its main sequence and start to become a red giant. At this point, the Earth will either be consumed by the Sun or very likely, be literally melted by it. Either fate will destroy essentially everything we have ever created.
Radiowaves that we have transmitted will survive as will probes that we have sent into space.
The remaining wonders
The transmitted radio waves will become ever fainter to the point where they will likely be undetectable from noise and the probes in the solar system will eventually be destroyed by collisions with other objects. The only physical things we have built to remain intact will be Pioneers 10 & 11, New Horizons and the Voyager probes.
As of the 5th of November 2018, the two Voyager probes left the solar system and took up orbits around the Milkey way in their own rights. Their orbits are predicted to be last for billions of years (as there is so little in the interstellar medium), meaning that they will likely outlive the Earth, us and everything else we have ever built.
The current wonders of the world have survived the test of time. They are (by modern terms) simple, and simple survives. Technology is renowned for breaking or being temperamental. When you look at the pyramids of Giza you see a human construction that has survived for over four and a half thousand years. It’s hard to believe that, to date, five delicate probes, pieces of high technology, will be the only physical proof that we were ever here.