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August 20, 2012 - Seasoned Tourist

Seasoned Tourist Taking advantage of a unique alignment of planets that occurs only once every 176 years, NASA began a “grand tour” of the solar system thirty-five years ago this week with the launch of Voyager 2, followed two weeks later by Voyager 1. The planetary alignment allowed Voyager 2 to be accelerated by Jupiter’s gravity and redirected toward Saturn, whose gravity helped send it to Uranus, where it was given a third gravity assist to Neptune and beyond. This remarkable maneuver turned what would normally be a thirty-year flight into a relatively quick twelve-year jaunt. Voyager 2, now 14 billion kilometers (9 billion miles) from Earth, still sends back data from near the boundary of interstellar space. This 1989 image shows Neptune, Voyager 2’s final port of call in the solar system.

Image credit: NASA / JPL

Weekly Calendar

August 20-26, 2012

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 20

1953: First Redstone rocket launched
1960: Sputnik 5 launched
1975: Viking 1 launched
1977: Voyager 2 launched

Moon phase Tuesday 21

Spica 1° north of Moon
Saturn 5° north of Moon

1965: Gemini V launched
1972: OAO-3 launched
2002: First Atlas V rocket launched

Moon phase Wednesday 22

Mars 2° north of Moon

1963: X-15 sets world altitude record for a winged craft (354,000 feet)
1976: Luna 24 returns soil samples from Moon

Moon phase Thursday 23

Moon at perigee

Moon phase Friday 24

First Quarter Moon 9:54 AM ET
Neptune at opposition

Moon phase Saturday 25

1965: President Johnson approves full-scale development of Manned Orbital Laboratory
1966: Apollo-Saturn 202 launched
1981: Voyager 2 flies past Saturn
1989: Voyager 2 flies past Neptune
2003: Spitzer Space Telescope launched

Moon phase Sunday 26

Pluto 0.7° north of Moon

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.