It took 35 years for Voyager 1 to enter interstellar space. Scientific advances during that period means a spacecraft could now travel that distance in about 15 years.
And NASA is “getting serious” about doing it, according to wired.com.
At Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, scientists are working on getting the interstellar mission on NASA’s to-do list, possibly scheduling it for 2030.
Although NASA believes humans aren’t yet ready for that kind of lengthy mission — 92 billion miles over 50 years — scientists are challenging the limit, and have started to see such a voyage as an engineering problem. Such missions used to be shelved, waiting for technological leaps to make them more feasible.
Advances in launch capabilities and propulsion have been important, but just as critical is new understanding of gravity and the ability to “slingshot” spacecraft around the sun to achieve speeds well over 100,000 mph.
But why do it? Physicist Pontus Brandt tells wired it’s all about the heliosphere. Read the full story here. That and the fact that the Voyager probes aren’t carrying instruments that measure things we didn’t know about in 1977.