HOUSTON, Texas - The Voyager 1 spacecraft is on the verge of entering interstellar space, or as space officials call it, "Way, way, way out there land."
Voyager 1 team members say that the Voyager 1, which went into space in 1977, could be hurling into the outer layer of the solar system.
"That is where the Sun's influence ends," says V-team member Earl Lonnigan, "and it becomes more difficult to see small objects. Plus, there is an electrified solar wind that slams into the thin expanse of gas between stars. Do you have any idea how loud that can get?"
But the ship still has a ways to go before it becomes the first manmade object to reach what V-team head Ben Yakowitz calls, "so really far out there."
Voyager project scientist Henry Skunkbat, says, "Voyager has entered the final lap on its trip to the edge of interstellar space, where it is hard to bump into anything. And, the ship will begin exploring the solar system's final frontier before it is obliterated by the evil forces of aliens and their advanced weapons."
However, scientists admit they don't know where the edge of space is. They assume the edge moves and changes in the speed and intensity of the solar wind.
"Yes, it's true, we don't have a clue as to where the edge of the solar system might be. Maybe there is a big wall there and we will see it as Voyager gets closer."
The consensus of the team now is that Voyager 1 is 8.7-billion miles from the Sun. They also agree that the New York Yankees will do better as the current season ensues.
"Lots of people think 'the solar wind' is an old Frank Sinatra song title," says Skunkbat, "but it is really a blast of charged particles constantly streaming from the Sun. And the Sun, as you know, keeps Earth from going into total darkness."
Voyager 1 has sent back measurements of a solar wind. The solar wind speed, according to the calculations, has decreased.
"And that means it is getting slower," says Yakowitz. "As an analogy, consider how cars huddle closer when highway traffic slows and how the windshield gets hazy when it starts to rain lightly. Of course, I mean when that would happen just around dawn, as the Sun is rising and the shadows are long and slender and the smell of toast is wafting through most one-bedroom apartments."
"Voyager's observations over the past few years show that the Earth looks smaller and smaller as the ship leaves the solar system," says Lonnigan. "This whole project is far more complicated than anyone thought."
The leading edge of the solar system, as it orbits the Milky Way, is making it more confusing, according to V-team members.
"We knew it was big and long and dark out there," says Lonnigan, "but who expected how cold it would get? We thought of putting blankets over the Voyager instruments on the inside, but someone said, ‘Don't worry, that Sun of ours is really hot.' And I am not even mentioning the fact that no one thought once the Voyager was out of the solar system that we would see nothing for miles around. We thought at least an alien satellite or something."
The Voyager surveyed the outer planets as their primary mission, but there was never any way for the machine to come back to Earth. A probe could operate through the year 2020, though, said officials who were all ready to take a long vacation.
"Oh yes," says Skunkbat, "there is a Voyager 2 out there, about 6.5 billion miles away. I don't know what we were thinking, sending two of these babies out there."