Voyager 1 is the farthest human-made object from Earth, NASA launched it on September 5, 1977, and as of October 2019, it had traveled 13.7 billion miles from the planet. Voyager 1 is believed to have left the solar system in 2012 and is set to encounter its target star AC +79 3888 in about 40,000 years. Voyager 2, which was launched 16 days before Voyager 1 left the Solar system in December 2018. Both aircraft are uncrewed but continuously send back data and receive commands from Earth.
Humans in Space
The International Space Station is the most frequented space probe, but it is located 240 miles above the Earth’s surface. The moon is 225,623 miles when closest to Earth and 252,088 miles when furthest. On July 16, 1969, Michael Collins, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong blasted into space aboard Apollo 11. Four days later, Aldrin and Armstrong landed on the moon using the Eagle Lunar module while Collins orbited around the moon, conducting experiments and taking pictures. Armstrong became the first human to step on the moon, followed closely by Aldrin. The men collected samples and conducted experiments on the lunar surface for about 3 hours. Four days later, they returned to Earth safely. Apollo 11 became the first manned probe to travel farthest from the Earth.
Furthest Manned Probe
Both Apollo 11 and 12 crews landed on the near side of the moon that is continuously exposed to sunlight. On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13 flew into space intending to be the third mission to land on the moon, but the journey was scrapped after an oxygen tank exploded, crippling the command module. The aircraft experienced limited power, loss of cabin heat, and a shortage of potable water. Without enough power, the probe lacked enough propulsion to return to Earth. The support team in Houston, Texas, advised the astronauts to use the moon’s gravity as a slingshot. To achieve this, Apollo 13 flew past the dark “far” side of the moon at an altitude of 158 miles from the lunar surface. For this, it traveled further than Apollo 11 and 12 and became the first manned aircraft to travel farthest from Earth. On December 7, 1972, Apollo 17 became the last crewed aircraft to land men on the moon. Since then, several uncrewed aircraft have flown further; in July 2019, Japan landed Hayabusa 2 probe on comet Ryugu, 280 million kilometers from Earth.
Future Manned Aircraft
NASA and other space agencies are planning to send humans further into space to conduct surveys and experiments that cannot be done by robots. Mars is the perfect candidate for such a program owing to its proximity and similarities to Earth. The biggest challenge is not the technology to land man on Mars but how to keep the astronauts alive aboard the aircraft for over nine months.