NASA

Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 2 which, at the time, confused the heck out of the press and public because it actually launched before Voyager 1. Why did they launch the second probe first? Because Voyager 2 was going to follow a longer trajectory to reach the Jupiter system, allowing it to fly by Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Voyager 1 launched 16 days later on a faster track optimized to fly by Jupiter, Saturn, and make a relatively close pass of Saturn’s intriguing moon Titan.

The missions, of course, were smashing successes. Voyager 1 reached Jupiter on March 5, 1979, about four months before its twin. Scientists weren’t sure what they would find out there. Pioneer 10 and 11 had given them some insights about Jupiter and Saturn as gas giants, but little information was known about the many moons of these worlds. Most scientists thought they would probably be a lot like the cold, dark, and lifeless moons of Earth and Mars.
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