"What, exactly, are we looking at?" Stone asks.
The data form a map of invisible matter, a slush of atomic particles once part of stars that exploded around 10 million years ago. The information has come from Voyager 1, the spindly little spacecraft that rocketed from Florida more than 30 years before and is still traveling, farther from Earth than any human-made object ever has.
Stone and his associates are stumped. "What are we going to find?" Stone wonders. "Right now, I don't think anybody knows."
The godfather of the interstellar mission called Voyager is now 75. He is rail thin, and his shoulders have a faint slope. A crown of gray hair circles the top of his otherwise bald head. He is wearing his standard work attire: gray sport jacket, gray pants, gray shoes, gray socks — and a white shirt.
Despite his uncertainty, his voice is calm. "Eventually," he assures the others, "we're going to figure this out."
Stone is agnostic about God, but has a belief that knowing about the cosmos brings deeper understanding of Earth. Although he and the other scientists might not comprehend Voyager's observations right now, experience tells him their meanings will be divined.
He also believes they will learn much more. Voyager 1 is close to bursting out of the solar system. Once it makes it beyond the influence of the sun, the spacecraft will enter part of the universe that scientists have only been able speculate about: Deep space.
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