Ed Stone stepped down as head of the Voyager project 50 years after its launch
The eternal head of the project Voyager at NASA Ed Stone stepped down after 50 years as chief scientist of the missions Voyager-1 and Voyager-2. The news was announced Tuesday by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) press office.
“It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve as science director of the Voyager project for the past five decades. Both of our probes have had incredible and unexpected successes, and I am thrilled to have been able to work with so many of such talented and dedicated colleagues,” said Stone, whose words are cited by the JPL press office.
Ed Stone was appointed head of the Voyager program in 1972, five years before the launch of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 into space. To date, he has been the sole scientific leader of these missions. Under his leadership, both instruments studied all four giant planets, and were the first man-made objects to leave the solar system.
Stone’s place will be taken by American astrophysicist Linda Spilker, who played an important role in both the Voyager program and the Cassini mission, whose scientific advisor she was until September 2017, when the NASA vehicle was destroyed by its plunge into Saturn’s upper atmosphere. Jamie Rankin, a member of the Voyager program and a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University (USA), will be her deputy.
About the Voyager program
The Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes were launched by NASA in late August and early September 1977 to study the giant planets and the outer reaches of the solar system. Over the next few decades, U.S. interplanetary stations collected a wealth of information about Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, and discovered several new moons from these worlds.
At the moment Voyager-1 remains the most distant from Earth spacecraft. It departed from our planet at a distance of 23.7 billion kilometers, or 158.55 astronomical units, the average distance between our planet and the Sun. Voyager 1 officially left the heliosphere, the “bubble” of solar wind plasma surrounding the solar system, at the end of August 2012.
The second spacecraft, Voyager-2, left the heliosphere much later, in December 2018, when it was 119 astronomical units from Earth. Its exit to the interstellar medium was a noticeably more important event for scientists for the reason that for the first time they were able to measure the properties of the interstellar medium using the instruments of this probe.