35 years ago, the Voyager 1 spacecraft was launched from Earth and ventured out into the galaxy. It's the farthest man-made object from home, at over 11 billion miles from us. Voyager's mission is to just keep on heading out into the final frontier (at least until it's picked up and brought back in time for Star Trek: The Motion Picture in the mid-2270s), and it's currently in the process of exiting our solar system and entering interstellar space.
On its way out of the solar system, Voyager 1 passed Jupiter and Saturn, sending back spectacular high resolution pictures of the gas giants and their moons. In the gallery below, we've chosen some of our favorite pictures from Voyager's tour, along with a few snapshots of the spacecraft itself before it left Earth.
As you look through these pics, just think about the experience that this spacecraft has had over the last three decades. It's spent a long, lonely time in the depths of space, punctuated by what must have been some absolutely circuit-blowing in-person encounters with Jupiter and Saturn. And now, Voyager 1 is on a long, lonely journey out into the Milky Way.
We'll keep hearing from the spacecraft until 2025 or so, at which point it may not have enough power to keep transmitting. Travelling nearly 11 miles every second, within about 40,000 years, Voyager 1 will pass within a light year or so of a red dwarf star in the constellation Camelopardalis. It's doubtful that the system is inhabited, but aliens might be there sightseeing or something, and if they notice our little robotic spacecraft, they'll be able to track it back to Earth.
Anyway, until ET arrives, check out these pics from a little closer to home, but still very far away.
Editor's Note: Unless noted, the captions below come from NASA. Some have been lightly edited for space.