One of the best-timed shots in TV history is an old clip by BBC’s science presenter James Burke which has recently gone viral following the release of the corporation’s archives.
Burke was reporting on the launch of Voyager 2 back in August 1977 for his brilliant BBC show Connections which was also rebroadcast by PBS. He had only one chance to nail this scene and he delivered masterfully.
Capturing the launch of Voyager 2 was the best timing in TV history
Voyager 2 is a space probe launched by NASA to study the outer planets and interstellar space beyond the sun’s heliosphere. A part of the Voyager program, it was launched 16 days before its twin, Voyager 1, on a trajectory that took longer to reach gas giants Jupiter and Saturn but enabled further encounters with ice giants Uranus and Neptune.
Voyager 2 remains the only spacecraft to have visited either of the ice giant planets. It was the fourth of five spacecraft to achieve solar escape velocity, which allowed it to leave the solar system.
Voyager 2 is now studying interstellar space
Voyager 2 successfully fulfilled its primary mission of visiting the Jovian system in 1979, the Saturnian system in 1981, the Uranian system in 1986, and the Neptunian system in 1989.
The spacecraft is now in its extended mission of studying interstellar space. It has been operating for 45 years, 7 months and 9 days as of March 30, 2023; as of March 27, 2023, it has reached a distance of 133.14 AU (12.376 billion mi) from Earth.
The probe entered interstellar space on November 5, 2018, at a distance of 122 AU (11.3 billion mi; 18.3 billion km) (about 16:58 light-hours) from the Sun and moving at a velocity of 15.341 km/s (34,320 mph) relative to the Sun.
It has left the Sun’s heliosphere and is traveling through the interstellar medium, a region of outer space beyond the influence of the Solar System, joining Voyager 1, which reached the interstellar medium in 2012. It has begun to provide the first direct measurements of the density and temperature of the interstellar plasma.
Voyager 2 remains in contact with Earth through the NASA Deep Space Network.
James Burke was also a reporter for the Apollo missions
Connections, which was later also transmitted by PBS in the US, traced the historical relationships between invention and discovery, and each episode chronicled a particular path of technological development. It was the most-watched PBS television series up to that time.
Burke established his reputation as a reporter on the BBC1 science series Tomorrow’s World and went on to present The Burke Special.
He was BBC television’s science anchorman and chief reporter for the Apollo missions, as the main presenter of the BBC’s coverage of the first moon landing in 1969.