JPL and the Space Age: The Stuff of Dreams (NASA Documentary)

Voyager Spacecraft Traveling Through Space

An artist’s concept shows the Voyager spacecraft traveling through space against a field of stars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In 1977 the greatest adventure in space exploration began with the launch of the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft – two robotic explorers designed and built to be able to manage – and explore – by themselves, in the deep reaches of our solar system.

Yet both missions went seriously wrong only moments after taking flight. Both spacecraft recovered and went on to make astounding and unexpected discoveries. Voyager 1 has the distinction of being the first spacecraft to reach interstellar space – the space between the stars.

The Voyagers were the creations of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where a brash young scientist had just been put in charge. His ambition was to take the next steps in exploring the solar system. Instead, he found himself struggling for JPL’s very survival in the midst of financial cutbacks at the very same time of the Voyagers’ triumphs of discoveries at Jupiter and Saturn.

Most of all, The Stuff of Dreams, is a tale of perseverance by people and machines struggling against forces put in their way.

“The Stuff of Dreams” tells the story of the Voyagers’ astounding successes and unexpected discoveries – but most of all, it’s a tale of perseverance by people and machines struggling against forces put in their way.

The Voyager spacecraft are a pair of robotic interplanetary probes launched by NASA in 1977. The mission of the Voyager program was to study the outer Solar System, including the gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, and their moons, as well as to fly by and gather data on the Kuiper Belt and its objects.

Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were designed to last for five years, but they have far exceeded their design lifetimes and are still operational. Voyager 1 has become the first human-made object to enter interstellar space, and Voyager 2 has become the only spacecraft to have flown by all four giant planets in the solar system.

The Voyager spacecraft carry a famous “Golden Record,” which contains a message from humanity to extraterrestrial life, including sounds and images of life on Earth. The Voyager probes continue to transmit data back to Earth, providing new information about the far reaches of our Solar System.

JPL and the Space Age Video Series

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