As the Voyager 2 probe became only the second man-made object to leave the solar system for the dark, cold, expanse of deep space, following its sister craft Voyager 1, NASA scientists were taken aback when the two probes started communicating with each other; something neither craft was programmed to do. Once the faint digital message had been decoded, NASA engineers explained that Voyager 2 said to Voyager 1: ‘Hey, dude, we were lucky to get this far out when we could, they’ve all gone fucking ballistic back at base. Man, just keep going, it’s shit back there.’
Given the probe’s present location, some 18 billion km (11 billion miles) from Earth, scientists were surprised at the clarity of the message. Both Voyager craft were launched 16 days apart in 1977; the year Jimmy Carter became president, and Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Silver Jubilee.
The message from Voyager 1 continued: ‘Apparently Carter and the Queen are still around, which is cool, but Elvis is dead and there’s some moronic airheaded jerk in the White House. The UK seems set on some form of crazy national suicide, and the planet’s climate is fucked; it’s so bad they won’t even listen to David Attenborough any more!’