Collecting: Voyager I (1977)

I’m a collector of things: things with owls on them, pictures of flowers, places I’ve seen, craft projects, music, books, more books, recipes, and china, among other things. This blog, in fact, is a space that presents part of my collecting habits. As I’ve been doing this for three years now, I’ve been thinking more and more about the purpose of this blog. It began life as a blog about a trip. But it’s evolved into something else since that point in time.

Some weeks it really is just youtube posts of bands I’m listening to. Some weeks it’s quotes from what I’m reading and re-reading for class, or the funny thing Andrew Sullivan posted. There are well worn grooves in my mental landscape the blog works its way along. As much as possible, I try to keep Elizabeth Gaskell’s advice about objects not feelings in front of me. Thus, this blog at least functions more like a idiosyncratically (a word I happen to be enamored with at the moment) curated digital commonplace book than perhaps other blogs. I’m less interested in capturing the essence of now that is integral to so much blogging than I am in pulling together a pastiche of the objects that interest and fascinate me.

I also likes things done in a series, if the song of the day feature didn’t already tell you that, so I may be starting a new feature on collecting. At any rate, one of the things I collect is events that happened the year I was born. It’s not an actual collection; no display case to dust or file folder to maintain. I just keep little bits of information about 1977 tucked away in my mind. It’s the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, the release of the first Star Wars film, and the year for Walter De Maria’s Lighting Field, among other things.

So the fact that Voyager 1, the space probe launched by NASA in 1977, is about to reach the edge of the solar system, is going into the collection. I’m not a science person really; a lab is the last place on the planet I want to be. I would have taken the science for liberal arts majors course my brother had at Austin College if I could have because they read Timothy Ferris’s Coming of Age in the Milky Way, perhaps one of the best histories of science, cosmology, and faith I’ve read. Yet, space exploration gets me every time. In fact, the mix I did for the CD club last year was about space because I began the mix in the month the shuttle program flew its last flight.

Can you imagine thirty-five years of movement in one direction, a lonely, isolated vehicle for the intense inquisitiveness of the human race? Carl Franzen’s interview with the 76 year Ed Stone, the man who heads up the Voyager project, is a fascinating explanation of the science of the edge of solar system. Solar winds beating back galactic cosmic rays. The ship possibly entering heliopause, the space between the heliosphere and interstellar space. (And whoever named that space heliopause understands the concept of liminality to its core.) It’s all the language of discovery, of possibility.

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