We’re publishing the shortlisted entries to the 2012 Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize. Here, to coincide with World Space Week, Andrew Rushby on the romance of our furthest travelling interstellar space probe.
As the Voyager 1 space probe cradles the edge of our Solar System, poised to enter the vacuous expanse of deep space, we are approaching a milestone that many on this planet are not aware of. As this magnificent example of human engineering leaves the confines of the warm embrace of our Sun, at ~120 AU (astronomical units) a now faint and distant beacon in the enveloping darkness, we will become an interstellar species. The gravitas of this monumental achievement should not be overlooked.
Whilst it remains theoretically feasible that our universe may be teaming with life, intelligence of space-faring calibre may be exceedingly rare. We, the product of a knife-edge balancing-act between biological, geochemical and…
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