The Voyager probes and Pluto: What if. . . .

Voyager 1 explored only Jupiter and Saturn, and theoretically could have been sent to visit Pluto.

Voyager 2 did the Grand Tour, and explored all the giant planets, and may or may not have been easy to swing it to Pluto, as at the time of the Neptune flyby, Pluto was inside the orbit of Neptune, and would have had to backtrack, so to speak.

The GQ: If it had been decided that Voyager 1 were to make a Pluto flyby, when would it have arrived? If they were on opposite sides of the Solar System, for example, New Horizons may well have arrived first anyway.

Neat question. I wonder if the cameras on Voyager 1 would have been good enough to resolve Pluto though that far away from the sun.

The condition for making it feasible is a lot tougher than just “not on opposite sides of the Sun”. At those distances, even being at slightly different places in their orbits means a huge separation.

At any rate, Pluto was known long before the Voyagers were ever planned. If they could have visited Pluto, they would have.

From NASA’s Voyager FAQ “Voyager 2, is it planned to ever reach Pluto?”

NASA needs to update their FAQ, since Pluto is no longer a planet.

Where in the FAQ do they refer to Pluto as a planet? Pluto is still the name of the dwarf planet, and it is still a real thing.

This seems to qualify:

The statement is still true, because at the time that the Voyagers didn’t visit it, Pluto was classified as an outer planet and the sentence is past tense.

So, anychance of them running into Planet 9?

Pluto was never a planet that’s didn’t get visited by Voyager …

Do you have a need for their growth tanks there?

Well, gang, thanks for the responses, but. . .

This ain’t a debate about whether Pluto is/was/should be classified as a ‘planet’, and has nothing to do with what I was asking, if anyone should care to read the OP.

Just sayin’. . . .


^^Eh. . . did you just pull that one out of your wazoo???

Guess I just wasn’t using the correct search criteria. Alan Stern answered that question two years ago:
Voyager 1 would have arrived in the spring of 1986.

Er … no … that came from my citation above “Both Voyagers flew beyond the orbit of Pluto/Neptune in 1989 …”

If you’re interested, I’d be happy to help you calculate all this out over the weekend … it’s just rocket science … not like fluid mechanics or anything hard.

Uh, yeah. But crossing the orbit is irrelevant if the planet is not fortuitously placed where you’re crossing it. In this case, Voyager 1 would have made the Pluto flyby six years after leaving Saturn. Voyager 2 took nine years to reach Neptune with an assist from Uranus.

IIRC, one of them at least would have had to have flown through Jupiter’s atmosphere to reach Pluto (as in, it thus couldn’t have reached it at all).