Voyager 1 is, as of now, 22 billion kilometers away from home. One day, we’ll be a space-faring species and we’ll have Voyager 1 in a museum. It’ll be trivial for us to go and reach Voyager but we won’t retrieve it. What’s wonderful about Voyager 1 is not only the amazing science and engineering that we can see on the metal, plastics, cables, circuits, panels, batteries, etc. What’s amazing is it’s vector: direction and speed.
We’ll build a museum around Voyager 1 for people to visit and see it travel. The museum will have to be built very carefully, bringing materials from all directions at the same time, in a balanced way, to avoid affecting Voyager’s trip. Even the visitors will have to be controlled to avoid affecting it.
We’ll marvel at what once was the man-made object furthest away from earth, from home, from the cradle back when all of mankind lived there. Billions of minds will visit it and marvel through the millennia. The museum will act as beacon for commerce and science to stay away of its path… until that day.
One day, Voyager 1’s path will intersect with something else. It might be a planet, an asteroid, a star, a black hole. The odds are astronomical you might think, but so is, well, space and time.
That day unrecognizable humanity will gather to decide what to do. We’ll be mature enough to not need that piece of metal somewhere safe and instead we’ll say good bye.
Part of humanity will gather around, for weeks, maybe even months. We’ll have a festival in space about the 20th century, about how fucked it was, marveling at how close humanity came to self destruction and still produced Voyager 1. We’ll watch movies, attend concerts, both old and new. And eventually, the museum we’ll retreat and so we’ll we. We’ll all watch is silence as a relic of our infancy reaches the end of its life, as it collides and disintegrates. We’ll celebrate it, we’ll mourn it.