The probe Voyager 1 left our solar system this week, NASA announced… or maybe not, says Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait, depending on how you define “solar system.” But Plait isn’t denying how cool this is:
[T]his is an astonishing achievement for humanity. It was inevitable; we knew this would happen even before Voyager (and its twin Voyager 2) was even launched, in 1977. But still, after all these years, and so much terribly empty space traveled, this point has now been reached. Humanity is now an interstellar species.
(Even cooler is the fact that Voyager is still doing science and sending its results back to us, and is expected to be able to continue doing so until 2025 or 2030, when its nuclear battery will run out of juice.)
Barring an extremely unlikely collision with interstellar junk or future retrieval by humanity, Voyager will continue on its lonely, unimpeded way for hundreds of thousands of years, and longer. It could outendure us as a species and be one of humanity’s few lasting legacies, such as it is.
What else would you like to know would be one of humanity’s legacies? What are the greatest things we have already achieved or could conceivably achieve that future superevolved cockroaches or alien tourists would look at and go, “Huh. Those humans weren’t half bad”?
(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)