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The Question

(Submitted February 24, 1998)

How far has a spacecraft ever gone?

The Answer

Voyager 1 is the farthest a space probe -- over 10.4 billion km (over 6.4 billion miles) from the Sun (a bit farther than that from the Earth - in comparison, the Earth is about 0.1 billion miles from the Sun), followed by Voyager 2 -- 8 billion km (5 billion mi.) from the Sun -- as of 1/30/98. Voyager 2 was launched first, in August 1977, followed by Voyager 1 in Sept. 1977, so they've been traveling for over 20 years! (see: http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/)

In addition to Voyager 1 being the farthest working space probe, it just recently became the most distant man-made object, surpassing Pioneer 10. (So, obviously, it's Pioneer 10 and not Voyager 2 that is the 2nd most distant at this time.) See the press release of Feb 13, 1998, available from http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/news/pressrelease2.html .

Jonathan Keohane, Mark Kowitt and Jim Lochner
for Ask an Astrophysicist

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