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For director Emer Reynolds, the Voyagerspace missions to Jupiter and Saturn tell the story of humanity’s most daring foray into the last great unknown.
“It’s not too much to say that this is probably mankind, humankind’s, greatest journey of exploration ever,” Reynolds told Chuck Todd on “1947: The Meet the Press Podcast.”
Reynolds’ latest film project, The Farthest, tells the story of the Voyager spacecraft, the first man-made objects to leave the solar system, and the countless men and women who planned, designed and contributed to the missions success. The small, lonely probes, launched 40 years ago, and each is now 12 billion miles away from Earth, speeding through open space at 38,000 miles per hour.
“The reality is these spacecraft will continue throughout our galaxy, will circle our Milky Way galaxy for millions, perhaps billions of years and in all likelihood will outlive humanity and could well be the only remnant of our existence,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said her fascination with space and the mysteries of the stars took off during her childhood in Southern Ireland, where the clear night skies radiated with starlight.
“There was pitch black skies overhead, no light pollution at all. I was dazzled by the Milky Way,” Reynolds said. “Just fell in love with it, like a lot of children, probably.”
She remembered the distinct images the Voyager spacecraft captured as they were broadcast on television, igniting a sense of wonder and awe in her spirit.
“All through my childhood Voyager was trekking out through the solar system, Reynolds said. “I remember seeing documentaries on BBC showing first-ever images up close of Neptune and its great storm, you know, really always a bit dazzled by it.
Reynolds’ said she hoped to give the Voyager probes the attention they deserve.
“We realized it never had been seen on a cinema screen before, it had never been given the full cinema treatment. It had had T.V. documentaries made about it, but never really the big full epic visual scale story that it really deserves,” Reynolds said.
She recounted her experience meeting the team running the operation, a group of men and women who have dedicated their time and energy to keep the spacecraft operating long past its originally expected mission end date.
“We really got to the heart of the subject and just to feel this pride and love and awe radiating out of them,” Reynolds said. “These men and women, some in their 60s, 70s, 80s, they’re talking like excited schoolchildren [about] this extraordinary moment in their life when they dreamed of this audacious mission and they pulled it off.”
Since crossing the heliopause, the outer edge in space where the Sun’s solar wind ceases to blow and interstellar space begins, the countdown to Voyager’s slow, uninterrupted death has begun.
“They can kind of predict their path for the next millions of years and there’s nothing for them to crash into,” Reynolds said. “They will be junk, but they’ll have this record of our existence on them.”
Regardless, Reynolds said the crafts’ significance will continue to live on past its 2025 death date and, perhaps, beyond humanity’s existence.
“It matters to us that at some distant point in space and time, maybe when we’re a blip in the universe’s history, someone could in fact find us and know that we were here.”