How It Works

What’s the farthest man-made object from Earth?

Asked by Jane Parker

The Voyager 1 space probe was launched by NASA on the 5 September 1977, on a mission to study the furthest reaches of our solar system – and it’s still working! Responsible for sending back some our best images of Saturn and Jupiter and their Moons, Voyager 1 is travelling at 61,425km/h (38,168mph) and is just over 17.5 billion kilometres (10.9 billion miles) from Earth. It’s so far away that data transmitted by radio waves takes over 11 hours to reach Earth and it’s about to leave our solar system and go into interstellar space (the space between our solar system and the nearest star). Voyager 1 is running out of power and will shut down around the year 2025-2030, but it will carry on speeding through space. In case Voyager 1 is discovered by intelligent life forms, it carries a gold-plated audio-visual disc which contains photos and messages from Earth as well as a mix of Earth sounds, such as a baby crying. We’ll have a long time to wait until we get a reply, because it’ll be just under 40,000,000 years before Voyager 1 passes within 1.6 light years (9.6 billion miles) of the star AC+79 3888.

David Houston, Science Museum