The Family Portrait

Author’s Note – This story voices Voyager, the first spacecraft to enter interstellar space. Enjoy! 

After thirteen years of voyage, it is now time.

Four billion miles is a long way from home and the sun’s warmth is rapidly fading into the coldness of space. The solar wind particles that had been traveling at the speed of light slow down abruptly as they encounter the interstellar medium. They huddle together forming the inner protective boundary of the solar system, and the end of sun’s reign. The interstellar wind gently buffets beyond the boundary, subtly taking charge. Excitement, unease, and gloom forge into a tangled mix as I look homeward for one last time.

    NASA/JPL. A Pale Blue Dot. nd. nasa.gov. Web. 18 Oct. 2018. 

It was a rare opportunity, they had said. That human race could witness the perfect alignment of gas giants that only happened every 176 years. I was created to soar by every one of them. To visit where no one had been before, to see what no one had previously laid eyes upon.

The journey that began a decade ago is nothing short of a miracle. I flew above Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, watching it swallow some clouds and spit out others. My trajectory took me dangerously close to the gas giant’s intense magnetic field, and I survived the onslaught of its intense radiation and all the turbulence that tags along. From observing Jupiter’s faint ring to blizzard of features on Saturn’s, I’ve wondered how their splendor could manifest from pure compressed gas. I’ve witnessed some of the outer moons blasted with impact craters, while the inner ones actively shoot lava deep into space. From penetrating Titan’s smoggy atmosphere that revealed lakes of liquid methane to hinting underground oceans on Europa, I’ve confirmed some theories and casted doubts on others. The fact that I was completely reprogrammed before visiting the fainter planets astounds me to this day. I was showered with tricks to work in the darker environment near Uranus and Neptune, where the sunlight is feeble and pictures are lightless. With those tricks, Uranus rapidly transformed from being a minuscule point of light to a world of its own. Skimming the surface of Neptune, I spectated geysers launch nitrogen gas into space on worlds that should have been dormant.

During the past decade, I have witnessed storms and discovered moons. I am now unsure of the experiences I shall encounter in the worlds I enter. From here on, the last part of the mission becomes prominent. I carry with me The Golden Record, a disc of metal encompassing the essence of Earth. There was only space for a hundred images, and not every action that happens on Earth could make it. But the pictures are diverse, and pretty much replicate the lives that thrive on Earth. Sounds of nature accompany them, along with greetings from different parts of the world.

    NASA/JPL. Making of the Golden Record. nd. nasa.gov. Web. 18 Oct. 2018. 

It was made to be discovered by those like or unlike them. It also has the location of Earth engraved on it, should aliens wish to drop by and say hello. Realistically, how certain can we be that I will be discovered, the instructions on how to play the record correctly interpreted and the recorded sounds understood? How certain can we be that they are technologically advanced to understand the engraved location of Earth with respect to various pulsars? Humans understand that there is a slim chance of that happening, but if it did? What a wonder it shall be. Humans are a curious bunch and they can only hope that it will be discovered by species that are as curious as they. That they too, will look up and question not only their existence but of the universe itself.

I do not know where they are. I do not know what they are. From here on, it is for this disc of metal that I shall continue my journey and though it is a shot in the dark in the literal sense, I can only hope to be discovered by them as I trudge through interstellar space. I am the very first spacecraft out in space that will not only outlive humanity, but also the sun. Four billion years from now, the sun will evolve into a red giant, gobbling up every planet in its path, but the humans would have long departed from Earth. There is solace in the thought that I will be sailing through space, representing Earth and all of the life it proliferated.

With that, I sign off from the solar system and glide into the unknown.

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