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Voyager to a Star?


The latest imagery from New Horizons has me wondering what it must be like to be on the team for this mission. Although released a week ago, the photo at left was taken by the Ralph color imager aboard the spacecraft on April 9. The distance from Pluto and Charon in the shot is about 115 million kilometers. This is the first color image ever made of Pluto/Charon by an approaching spacecraft, one that gives us a sense of what lies ahead as the distance continues to diminish. Imagine being part of this long effort and seeing a new world and its system of moons swimming into focus, unveiling landscapes never before seen.

New Horizons takes me back to the Voyager days, and in the context of the approach to Pluto/Charon, the publication of Jim Bell’s The Interstellar Age (Dutton, 2015) is truly apropos (I’m sure the publishers had exactly this in mind). Subtitled “Inside the Forty-Year Voyager Mission,” the book lets us glimpse what it was like inside JPL when the planetary encounters occurred. Bell, now president of the Planetary Society’s board of directors, was caught up in Voyager as a young grad student at Caltech, a formative experience in his career as a planetary scientist. In describing new planets coming for the first time into detailed view, he turns to the words of an old friend:

“The sense of exploration we get with these missions is a very ‘human explorer’ kind of feeling, even though our senses are on the distant spacecraft,” my friend, planetary science colleague, and Voyager imaging team member Heidi Hammel says. “I feel like an old-fashioned mountain climber when I am making discoveries, seeing something for the first time, realizing that no human before me has ever seen what I am seeing. It takes your breath away— for just a moment you feel a pause in time as you know you are crossing a boundary into a new realm of knowledge. And then you plunge in, and you are filled with childlike joy and wonder and delight.”

Hammel goes on to say that you have to temporarily shelve that feeling if you’re a scientist working on the mission, at least while an active encounter is going on. But the wonder of the event is something you always have with you, and it’s something a good scientist wants to share. It’s interesting in the New Horizons context that Bell talks about Jon Lomberg’s One Earth: New Horizons Message project. What Lomberg has in mind for New Horizons, you’ll recall, is an uploaded message, a Voyager ‘Golden Record’ sent digitally into the spacecraft’s computer memory after its Solar System work is done (see New Horizons Message Update].

Could we do something like this for the Voyagers? It’s an intriguing notion. Lomberg pointed out to Bell that while the Golden Record will always be a part of Voyager, there is nothing on the spacecraft that tells of its remarkable passage through our Solar System, something that says ‘here’s what Voyager was and here’s what Voyager found.’ Bell would like to see us upload some of these historic photos. Imagine: The volcanoes of Io, the spectacular cliffs of Miranda, the bizarre cantaloupe terrain of Triton, all could be used to create what he calls an ‘electronic postcard’ that will complete the Voyager story for any future intelligence that finds them.

And is a trajectory change a possibility? This is interesting stuff. Right now, the Voyagers will take about 30,000 years to reach the outer edge of the Oort Cloud (the inner edge, according to current estimates, is maybe 300 years away). Add another 10,000 years and Voyager 1 passes some 100,000 AU past the red dwarf Gliese 445, which happens to be moving toward the Sun and will, by this remote date, be one of the closest stars to the Solar System.

As to Voyager 2, it will pass 111,000 AU from Ross 248 in roughly the same time-frame, at which point the red dwarf will actually be the closest star to the Sun. According to Bell, Carl Sagan and the team working on the Golden Record wondered whether something could be done about the fact that neither Voyager was headed for the interior of another Solar System. Is it possible that toward the end of the Voyagers’ active lifetimes (somewhere in the 2020s), we could set up a trajectory change that would eventually lead Voyager to a star?

The idea comes out of Sagan’s Murmurs of Earth (Random House, 1978), which Bell quotes as he describes the concept:

Both [Sagan and the Golden Record team] and I wonder if it might be possible to command one final “empty-the-tank” thruster firing, just before final communication with each Voyager is lost, to “redirect the spacecraft as closely as possible so that they will make a true encounter [with these stars]. If such a maneuver can be affected then some 60,000 years from now one or two tiny hurtling messengers from the strange distant planet Earth may penetrate into their planetary systems.” If no one else does, I will try to remember to make this request to Suzy Dodd or whoever is running the Voyager Project in a decade or so, as the spacecraft power levels wind down. We have the fuel. Feel free to mention it to your congressperson.


A trajectory change would increase only infinitesimally the faint chance that one of these spacecraft would someday be intercepted by another intelligent civilization, but the message of this maneuver is really to us. There is a certain magic in the idea that these venerable machines might one day be warmed by the light of another sun. In any event, I’m much in favor of Pioneer plaques, Golden Records, and One Earth Messages, as they remind us that our spacecraft are our emissaries as well as our scientific tools. How we conceive of them through the information they carry helps us gain perspective on ourselves, and shapes the context of all our future explorations. If we can do it, I’m all for giving the Voyagers one last, hard nudge into the unknown.


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  • John Freeman April 21, 2015, 10:14

    Strangely enough this is athought that has been on my mind for a while – I think it’s of a piece with the question of how long the fallen astronaut statue on the Moon will last, or any relic of our civilisation. I even painted a picture of it! Here : http://manyworldsart.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/voayge-into-infinity.html

  • ljk April 21, 2015, 12:49

    The conservative estimate for the survival of the side of the Voyager Interstellar Record in interstellar space if left untouched is about one billion years. The side of the record protected by the probe itself will last even longer.

  • Marshall Eubanks April 21, 2015, 13:38

    I always figured the real beneficiary of the Golden Record will be our descendants. It is very, very unlikely that an ETI would find Voyager, while a future human civilization could figure out where they were and go hunt for them. It is thus much more likely that, if the records are ever played, it will be by a future civilization with a connection to us (as opposed to a future civilization with no connection to us). They might do it just to have a cool artifact for some museum, but they also might wonder just what 20th Century Earth looked and sounded like.

  • william April 21, 2015, 14:36

    A trajectory change? I thought those craft were basically out of fuel and that the were not responding control wise to any navigation. But in 1,000,000,000 years, what is it all going to really matter anyway

  • Alex Tolley April 21, 2015, 14:47

    What a delightful idea. If it can be done, we should push for it. That must be the longest range idea I have ever heard of, beyond the time scales of the “Long Now” organization.

  • ljk April 21, 2015, 15:25

    Uploading information and images onto the Voyager probes as we plan to do with New Horizons is a wonderful idea. Now the question is, can it be done? How much data can those old probes hold? And most importantly, long may they last?

    New Horizons is said to be able to hold the data for the One Earth Message for hundreds of thousands of years. Which is nice, but also a bit short in time when it will probably take far longer than that for the probe to be found by non-humans. Which is why I wish the New Horizons team had done something, even like a Pioneer plaque, before the probe left for Pluto and beyond. They could have asked an outside team to do the work, just as Carl Sagan got a team together to voluntarily do the Voyager record.

    If an alien derelict probe came drifting into our Sol system, we would be extremely grateful no doubt if such a vessel carried information about its makers and home world. Also if such a gift showed that the probe had no hostile intentions wouldn’t hurt, either.

    I hope in the future all deep space probes will carry some form of information package about humanity and its home world *before* launch, both as a form of identification and to preserve at least some of ourselves for future generations. Dare I say it should be made a law? We do not know who or what is out there, or if humanity will survive. Plus, if such vessels are found by our distant descendants, they will likely appreciate informative artifacts from their ancestors.

    We must start thinking not just globally, but cosmically. We are no longer confined to one little world and are slowly but surely making our ways into the vast Universe. Time to behave accordingly – and always bring a gift.

  • ljk April 21, 2015, 15:47

    william said on April 21, 2015 at 14:36:

    “A trajectory change? I thought those craft were basically out of fuel and that the were not responding control wise to any navigation. But in 1,000,000,000 years, what is it all going to really matter anyway?”

    Imagine if the microbes we descended from that existed on Earth one billion years ago felt the same way and didn’t bother to survive and thrive?

  • Marshall Eubanks April 21, 2015, 15:49

    ljk – I think that someone (outside of NASA) should put together a artifact (maybe an inscribed disk like the Last Pictures
    or an engraving like the DOVES
    that could be carried on any deep space mission (including the upper stages). There will be another New Horizons (maybe with a different name); people should be thinking now what sort of message to be placed on it.

    All spacecraft need trim weights; there is no reason why these trim weights couldn’t contain messages for the future.

  • Andrew Palfreyman April 21, 2015, 15:52

    If we don’t have the interstellar wherewithal within the next century or so to bop over to Voyager, pop it into a cargo bay, and drop it “somewhere nice”, then we might as well not bother. Because we failed to live up to the promise of the message.

  • Marshall Eubanks April 21, 2015, 15:52

    We have proposed a set of chipsat femtospacecraft to be carried to an asteroid (Didymos). If someone can create suitable messages of a suitable size (milligrams at most), I will try to see that they get placed on the chipsats for seeding that and future asteroids

  • Marshall Eubanks April 21, 2015, 16:00

    BTW, the Voyagers have 68 KB of RAM and an 8 track Digital Tape Recorder. I do not know if anything from the ground can be recorded on the DTR, but I doubt it. I don’t know how much you can do with some fraction of 68 KB (these spacecraft will never be turned off, and so will collect and send data until and probably past the point when commands can be uplinked from the ground. http://www.scpr.org/blogs/news/2012/09/04/9705/voyager-1-nasa-jpl-launch-anniversary-35-birthday/

  • Arthur Majoor April 21, 2015, 22:03

    I’d actually much rather push for lots more probes, and the technology to make them reach their targets so much faster.

    It is telling that K Eric Drexler wrote a thesis on ultra lightweight solar sails and even manufactured small test samples of the metal foil in the 1970’s; solar sails that potentially could bring a probe to Pluto in three years! This would involve some space manufacturing (given the time, the device was sized to fit a space shuttle bay, but obviously this can be rethought), but it wasn’t beyond the capabilities of the US in the 1980’s.

    Given today’s vastly improved electronics, a gossamer solar sail based on the Drexler design could be sending cubesats across the Solar System in a matter of years, so scientists wouldn’t have to wait their entire careers to see the results of their work. And as a bonus, probes sailing past the outer planets at the sorts of speeds being contemplated will be on their way to interstellar space much more quickly as well. Golden records are optional for these missions, of course….

  • John Freeman April 22, 2015, 4:24

    Is there any propellent left in the tanks?

    The odds of an ETI finding it one day might be low (although there’s a lot of one days to come before this universe can no longer support life as we know it) but if you’re not in the game your odds are zero, anyway. If Voyager (or other probes) might be the only lasting trace we leave I say go for it, it’ll only cost us the energy needed to send the commands. Assuming there’s any fuel left in the tanks that is.

  • John Freeman April 22, 2015, 6:23

    BTW, I’m asking re actually measuring the amount of propellent in the tanks, although in the Bell quote above he says they had the fuel at that time (1978).

  • ljk April 22, 2015, 11:01

    Marshall Eubanks said on April 21, 2015 at 15:49:

    ljk – I think that someone (outside of NASA) should put together a artifact (maybe an inscribed disk like the Last Pictures

    or an engraving like the DOVES

    that could be carried on any deep space mission (including the upper stages). There will be another New Horizons (maybe with a different name); people should be thinking now what sort of message to be placed on it.

    ljk replies:

    Here is my take on Trevor Paglen’s The Last Pictures METI art project:


    A very relevant article by artist Paglen:


    Another democratic METI project is Time Capsule to Mars:


    Here is a plan for a “Space Flight Dolphin” METI art project from the Space Shuttle era:


    Quoting from the article:

    “An inflatable dolphin sculpture/satellite (Fig. l) will be deployed from the cargo bay of the U.S. Space Shuttle into low earth orbit. After deployment, Space Flight Dolphin will transmit a signal modulated by dolphin “voices” that may be detected or sensed by extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI). As the sculpture/satellite orbits the Earth, the dolphin voices will be monitored in various museums around the world, providing a link between different people and cultures on our own planet. Space Flight Dolphin will add to the history of human beings communicating through art with symbols that transcend the boundaries of time and culture.”

    Here is a project that is supposed to be a time capsule in Earth orbit for 50,000 years and may finally launch this year:


  • Marshall Eubanks April 22, 2015, 12:17

    I think that the next “New Horizons” should go to Sedna, to determine whether or not this body is from our Solar System or another one, and the best way to do that appears to be with a solar sail.

  • RAB April 22, 2015, 13:01

    Like one writer alluded to, I think it highly unlikely that these teetering relics will ever come close to a destination and why bother to even redirect them?! In a half a millennium or more we will probably have the technology to surpass these satellites, pluck them from their trajectory and place them in a museum, etc. At that time we will be our best emissary (hopefully) to represent ourselves to other distant worlds and civilizations, not some relic hardware with 68KB of memory and a phonograph (!) with needle from the 1970s!

  • william April 22, 2015, 13:57

    So did anyone by any chance know the answer as to whether or not the Voyagers have enough fuel on board to do these correction maneuvers or not?

  • Paul Gilster April 22, 2015, 14:52

    Jim Bell says they do in his book, but I haven’t confirmed that yet.

  • Jon Lomberg April 22, 2015, 16:29

    There are two ideas here: uploading some of Voyager’s best pics to the spacecraft; and the course change.

    For the first, the memory onboard Voyager is so small, I’m not even sure we could fit more than one or two images.
    And without enough room to explain data compression, the image would need to be coded in a Drake/Oliver prime number grid.
    While this has the advantage of being decodable, it is a bulky and inefficient method. I suppose we might manage one B&W shot,
    but which one? I guess I’d pick the first view of a crescent Saturn casting is shadow on the rings. It works well as monochrome and literally represents the previously impossible view from behind the planet and the new perspective Voyager offered all of us.
    Another factor is the lifetime of the recording on the tape (Voyager used actual tape on a reel), which I suspect is far shorter than the
    lifetime of our solid state memory on NH.

    As for tweaking the course, I am against it. The awesome thing about the Long Mission is that it travels through the galaxy, forever.
    The chance of it falling into orbit around a (probably) uninteresting star saps the juice from the concept. I feel the same way about the suggestion that future humans all intentionally track and recover the spacecraft to take back to the Smithsonian. I hate that idea.

  • Alex Tolley April 22, 2015, 17:01

    @Jon The awesome thing about the Long Mission is that it travels through the galaxy, forever.

    That seems like the equivalent of creating a building and burying it forever. Part of our culture is to rediscover and delight in things we built and subsequently examine. How many things do we delight in letting release forever. Not many. Kids releasing balloons perhaps. Many of us want to relocate things from the past. IMO, our descendents should have the option to retrieve such artifacts from the past, rather than losing them forever.

  • Gerry April 22, 2015, 18:33

    Interesting. How accurate a course-change would be possible at this point assuming that there is sufficient propellant available? Or conversely, to what degree of accuracy can we predict where these stars will be in 60,000 years? I know that we can extrapolate relative stellar motions, but what is the anticipated degree of accuracy over that amount of time?

    A related question; relative velocities–is there any chance, however remote, that one of these probes might end up orbiting it’s new star as an artificial long-period comet?

    Perhaps this has been calculated, or someone may have a rough idea, at least.

  • Marshall Eubanks April 22, 2015, 20:43

    I would not bother with trying a course correction:

    – we don’t know how much fuel the Voyagers have and
    – they will never risk the Interstellar mission by using up all of their fuel and
    – even if they were willing, we have no useful course to correct for.

  • Marshall Eubanks April 22, 2015, 20:57

    “A related question; relative velocities–is there any chance, however remote, that one of these probes might end up orbiting it’s new star as an artificial long-period comet?”

    That takes a 3 body interaction (much like doing a gravity assist, except by blind chance). There are lots of binaries out there (and some star-planet systems would also qualify) but the chances of “hitting the keyhole” and staying in the planetary system is tiny. (How tiny? Consider the Sun and Jupiter – an alien probe would have to come within a million km or so of Jupiter to be captured, or say 0.01 AU. In a billion years, a Voyager type probe would pass within maybe 6 AU of some star (the closest approach expected on average), giving it roughly a 1 / 1 million chance of capture. A one in a million chance of winning the lottery every billion years is not very good odds, but it is actually worse, as a small body in a capture orbit is likely to be subsequently ejected, and it would take another improbable 3 body interaction to prevent that.

    Not impossible, but not the way to bet.

  • Alex Tolley April 22, 2015, 21:32

    After 10’s of thousands of years, if humanity is still around as a technological species, one can only imagine how primitive such a probe will seem. Today we might see stone axes as less simple in comparison to our tech than a Voyager probe compared to 50,000 CE tech. Voyager might be a priceless artifact of our time, with so much much importance attached to its journey.

  • Holger April 23, 2015, 4:28

    Jon: “The chance of it falling into orbit around a (probably) uninteresting star saps the juice from the concept. ”

    An orbit is out of the question, it would at best be a fly-by. Voyager would continue to travel through the galaxy regardless of a trajectory change, unless it is actually captured by aliens.

    Paul: “Jim Bell says they do in his book, but I haven’t confirmed that yet.”

    “Do” in present tense? Sagan couldn’t know exactly how much fuel would remain in 1978, as the primary (planetary) missions lasted into the 80s. I’d also imagine the control team would have found some near-term use for remaining fuel in the last decades.

  • Marshall Eubanks April 23, 2015, 10:18

    The Voyager spacecraft appear to have a fair amount of hydrazine left – that should outlast the RTGs.


    They use the hydrazine for roll maneuvers, 6 times per year to calibrate the magnetometers. That will cease when the gyros are turned off, maybe next year :


    Of course, once the gyros are turned off, you also lose any ability to usefully maneuver the spacecraft, so that will be going away relatively soon.

  • ljk April 23, 2015, 10:21

    Alex Tolley said on April 22, 2015 at 21:32:

    “After 10’s of thousands of years, if humanity is still around as a technological species, one can only imagine how primitive such a probe will seem. Today we might see stone axes as less simple in comparison to our tech than a Voyager probe compared to 50,000 CE tech. Voyager might be a priceless artifact of our time, with so much much importance attached to its journey.”

    We are certainly thrilled about finding 3.3 million year old handcrafted rocks, so I can just imagine what a probe from the earliest days of the human Space Age, to say nothing of being one of the very first vessels to leave the Sol system, would mean to our descendants:


    Now imagine if our ancestors could have included a package with information and images about what life was like for them along with those stone tools. Scientists would be doing literal handsprings of joy.

    Remember there are also quite a few satellites and rocket stages in geosynchronous orbit, sitting on other worlds, and circling our star going back to 1959 awaiting discovery some day. They will last for millions of years at least. They too should carry information packages for the edification of our children. The Rosetta comet probe has a disc courtesy of the Long Now Foundation containing examples of over one thousand human languages: Just imagine how valuable that will become some day (think Linear B).

    Let us just hope none of our deep space heritage ends up like Pioneer 10 did in the abysmal 1989 film Star Trek 5….


    By the way, the film got the plaque’s position on Pioneer 10 wrong. It is facing inward towards the probe to reduce damage to its etched message by dust and meteoroids, though I always wondered why they did not carve both sides of the plaque both to better catch the attention of any finders and to improve the chances of the message surviving its time in interstellar space.

  • Mark Zambelli April 27, 2015, 16:47

    I appreciate Jon Lomberg’s viewpoint an offer an a third alternative…

    I imagine a future spacefaring human civilization; inquisitive enough about its past to trackdown these early probes but I can’t see them blundering badly enough to disturb the very prize they’re after. No, I can fully see them using n-th generation offshoots of not only our existing passive scanning tech but stuff we have no inkling of. They can reap what they’re after without ‘desecrating’ a priceless part of their history. I suppose they might even release an accompanying probe of their own, programmed for station-keeping and acting not only as a beacon but also as a ‘perimeter fence’… in much the same way as will most surely be required when tourists have easy access to the landing sites on the moon and mars to preserve those heritage areas. That way, they keep on exploring the galaxy as they were intended, rather than being retrieved or ending up meeting their demise whizzing through an uninhabited extrasollar system.

  • Holger April 28, 2015, 4:38

    @Marshall Eubanks:
    Thanks for the links! But if the hydrazine is only enough for 25 years of roll maneuvers, it’s unlikely to be able to make a substantial course change, I think.
    (And if it is, Voyager might have been directed to visit a Kuiper belt object years ago, like New Horizons is supposed to. Unless it was too far away already when the KBOs were discovered.)

  • Marshall Eubanks April 28, 2015, 16:35

    @Holger – the hydrazine was never intended to make a substantial course change.

    Note that at the time that Voyager was doing its last planetary flybys, there was little knowledge of the Kuiper belt, with the first Kuiper Belt Object, 1992 QB1, only being discovered in 1992.

  • ljk April 29, 2015, 8:02
  • Marshall Eubanks April 29, 2015, 10:47

    I was unaware of the Rosetta disk mentioned above) and found this fascinating


    Something like this should go on every future deep space probe, if only as trim.

  • ljk April 29, 2015, 12:28

    Marshall Eubanks said on April 29, 2015 at 10:47:

    “Something like this should go on every future deep space probe, if only as trim.”

    I have been advocating this for years. In fact, I think it should be mandatory, not as an afterthought or having a deep space mission METI project treated like some small town’s time capsule, as New Horizons collection of items originally was – see here:


    While I am glad that One Earth Message is resolving that lost opportunity to a degree, I hope it will not happen ever again in this manner. As we have already seen with other such projects as the Time Capsule to Mars, plenty of folks are more than thrilled to make a contribution to the preservation of our species and in the more democratic fashion that is gaining emphasis these days.

    Of course if a certain small group of people had not acted when they did back in the Pioneer 10-11 and Voyager 1-2 days, those probes might have been left with neither a plaque nor a record onboard. Maybe a US flag and some signatures at most, neither of which would say much to future discoverers, human or otherwise. Let us have learned our lesson from New Horizons, only the fifth human vessel to leave the Sol system.

  • PrTheo May 2, 2015, 4:48

    As a aside, it seems useful to me to have a radio beacon associated to the plaque or Rosetta Disk, in order to trace the tiny probe more easily among the vastness of interstellar space.

    To make it work on the long-term, we could take inspiration from the Great Seal Bug :
    It was a large-scale RF-ID passive listening device which was powered by a 330Mhz beam and emitted an amplitude-modulated signal on an higher harmonic. Its overall simplicity and lack of active components gave it a potentially unlimited operational life.

    Such a probe radio beacon could use part of the cosmic radiation background spectrum as the power input, modulate it with either another natural radio wave at a different frequency or the output from a passive sensor, then emit the result in the 21cm hydrogen line band.

  • Holger May 4, 2015, 10:17

    @Marshall Eubanks:
    “the hydrazine was never intended to make a substantial course change.”

    Not intended by Voyager’s creators, but using it for a course change is what Sagan and now Bell suggest, isn’t it? I suppose the hydrazine was used for minor course corrections on Voyager’s way to the planets, at least…

  • ljk May 4, 2015, 13:56

    Mariner 10 was never meant to be a solar sailer, but that is what the mission team used its solar panels for to get three flybys of Mercury.


    I am sure the Voyager team will be equally as clever to the end, otherwise those probes would have gone silent a long time ago.

  • Tiens van Greuning June 20, 2015, 22:29

    Here’s my 2 cents:

    While it would be ideal that our descendants be our best emissaries, traveling to and exploring and colonizing the galaxy as they go, there is no guarantee that they will. We have no idea what might happen even a decade from new, and craft like the voyagers may very well be the only relics from our civilization to ever leave the solar system.

    Therefore it goes without saying IMHO that we should try to maximize the chances of these guys being found someday by somebody. And again, IMHO chances of them being discovered increase dramatically if they can actually be in orbit around a star which “somebody” might one day try to colonize or set up mining operations in, as opposed to just drifting through empty space between the stars where the only thing they might accomplish is maybe accidentally colliding with and wrecking “somebody’s” colony ship…

    Now obviously, the two red dwarfs which are going to pass the Voyagers at about 100k AU in about 40k years from now, are moving towards us at a considerable clip. I think the one will cover about 17 light years in that time? So we don’t have any glimmer of hope to inflict even remotely enough delta V on these Voyagers to achieve orbit around one of these to stars. They are just moving way too fast.

    But, what I’m wondering is this. If we can use the available hydrazine to try and get the craft to fly by a little closer to one of these stars, so that our little emissaries may fly a bit deeper into the passing star’s gravity well, and possibly get a little gravity assist, and even a change in course in the process of doing so…. How accurately can one hope to aim them?

    If we can use a gravity assist from one of these passing red dwarfs to maybe aim for another passing star, one that is moving somewhat slower relative to us? If we can aim one of the Voyagers into the trajectory of such a star, so that it is traveling in the same direction as the star and the star catches up to it from behind, might that star’s gravity not pull the Voyager into orbit around it?

    It would be awesome if we could do that.

    Another idea that intrigues me quite a bit is this. Suppose one of the big space agencies launches another big ticket mission to some asteroid or comet or such again in the coming decades, which would be aimed like Rosetta to do some gravity assists past Venus in order to get to their destination. Would it be possible for an organization such as the Planetary Society, or some other crowd-funded group, to hitch a ride on that mission with a solar sail craft with some cameras and such, and a good long life battery, and use the first gravity assist past Venus to aim it for a Mercury gravity assist, passing the Sun close enough so that the sail can get some substantial delta-V to enable it to do a direct flyby mission of one of the larger planets, maybe Uranus or Neptune, and then aim that craft also more accurately to some passing star?