Edward Stone is retiring after 50 years as Challenge Scientist for the Voyager mission. The dual spacecraft revolutionized our understanding of our Photo voltaic System, and Stone was alongside for the trip each step of the way in which. Each spacecraft are nonetheless going, travelling deeper into interplanetary area, and nonetheless sending information house.
However after an extended and rewarding profession filled with achievements and recognition, Stone is shifting on.
When the Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977, our understanding of the Photo voltaic System was in its infancy. However Voyager 1 and a pair of modified that. The mission set off a cascade of discoveries that also resonates at present.
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“Once I look again, I notice how little we really knew concerning the photo voltaic system earlier than Voyager.”
Ed Stone, Voyager Mission Challenge Scientist.
The mission illuminated our understanding of the outer Photo voltaic System. Amongst different issues, the spacecraft noticed volcanic exercise on Jupiter’s moon Io, discovered erupting plumes on Saturn’s moon Titan, and found 16 new moons.
Ed Stone in 2019, in entrance of a scale mannequin of the Voyager spacecraft at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
Voyager gave us close-up color photos of the outer planets that introduced them to life. Actually, the pair of them took over 33,000 photos of simply Jupiter and its moons.
However the mission’s most well-known picture is of distant Earth. It’s referred to as “The Pale Blue Dot,” and it’s the final picture Voyager 1 took earlier than its cameras had been turned off eternally. It was Carl Sagan’s concept to level the spacecraft again towards Earth and take the image.
The “pale blue dot” of Earth captured by Voyager 1 in Feb. 1990 (NASA/JPL)
Ed Stone was the Voyager Challenge Scientist via all of this, and now he’s introduced his retirement. Over time, Stone was an eloquent spokesperson for the Voyager mission.
“In exploring the 4 outer planets, Voyager has already had an epic journey of discovery,” Stone mentioned in 1991. “Even so, their journey is lower than half over, with extra discoveries awaiting the primary contact with interstellar area,” Stone mentioned. “The Voyagers revealed how restricted our imaginations actually had been about our photo voltaic system, and I anticipate that as they proceed towards interstellar area, they are going to once more shock us with unimagined discoveries of this never-before-visited place which awaits us past our planetary neighbourhood.”
“Once I look again, I notice how little we really knew concerning the photo voltaic system earlier than Voyager,” Stone mentioned in 2010. “We found issues we didn’t know had been there to be found, time after time.”
Stone was a busy man and was concerned in lots of different missions moreover Voyager. Throughout his time period as director of JPL, he was answerable for quite a lot of missions and devices, together with Magellan, Galileo, Ulysses, TOPEX/Poseidon, Mars Observer, Hubble Extensive Subject/Planetary Digicam, Shuttle Imaging Radar, NASA Scatterometer, Mars International Surveyor, Mars Pathfinder/Sojourner, Cassini/Huygens, Deep House 1, QuickSCAT, ACRIMSAT, Stardust, Mars Local weather Orbiter, Mars Polar Lander, Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, Mars Odyssey, Genesis and Jason l.
Stone acquired accolades for his contribution to science and humanity. In 1986, he gained the Excellent Management Medal together with different members of the Voyager group. In 2014 he acquired a lifetime achievement award from the American Astronautical Society. He even went on the Stephen Colbert present in 2013 to speak about Voyager, and Colbert shocked him with the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal.
TV persona Stephen Colbert offered Ed Stone with NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal in 2013. Picture Credit score: NASA
“I used to be on the Colbert Report to speak about what I consider as humankind’s biggest—and positively most intensive—journey of exploration, and I actually didn’t anticipate the host at hand me an award,” mentioned Stone. “That shock on my face was actual.”
Stone could also be retiring, however Voyager isn’t. Mission operators are dealing with the spacecraft very fastidiously, although, and preserving energy by shutting particular person methods down. However each Voyager 1 and a pair of are nonetheless transmitting information from their journey into interstellar area.
“The beauty of the Voyager journey is not only that it’s 40 years lengthy, however in actual fact, it’s nonetheless discovering new issues as a result of it’s going the place nothing has been earlier than,” Stone mentioned in 2017.
Ed Stone, second from the left, and different members of the Voyager group posing with a mannequin of the spacecraft in 1977 when the pair of spacecraft had been launched. Picture Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech
It has been a outstanding journey, and I’m grateful to everybody all over the world who has adopted Voyager and joined us on this journey.”
Ed Stone, Voyager Challenge Scientist.
Voyager 1 and a pair of will outlive Stone, which is form of unhappy and delightful on the similar time. Actually, the spacecraft would possibly outlive humanity. They’ll run out of energy and cease gathering and transmitting information, however they’ll preserve going, carrying a present within the occasion of an unlikely encounter with one other civilization.
Hope rides shotgun on missions like Voyager. Alongside all of the science targets is the concept it’s all value it. That humanity has a future. And 1977 was a unique world in comparison with at present.
The West was locked into the Chilly Conflict with the USSR. Their arsenals of nuclear weapons grew bigger and bigger, they usually devised extra technologically ingenious methods to ship them to every others’ cities. Individuals had been fearful about nuclear accidents and poisonous waste, and there have been gloomy predictions concerning the surroundings and human over-population.
On the flip facet, Star Wars was launched in 1977, private house computer systems had been obtainable on the market, smallpox was eradicated, and the primary check flight of the House Shuttle befell.
So much has occurred for the reason that Voyager spacecraft had been launched. Little doubt Stone is reflective about how the world has modified since 1977. For Stone, it’s been a outstanding journey.
“It has been an honour and a pleasure to function the Voyager mission scientist for 50 years,” Stone mentioned. “The spacecraft have succeeded past expectation, and I’ve cherished the chance to work with so many proficient and devoted individuals on this mission. It has been a outstanding journey, and I’m grateful to everybody all over the world who has adopted Voyager and joined us on this journey.”
From all of us who’re hopeful about humanity, thanks Ed.