Space exploration is one of the most fascinating subjects we’ve been able to conduct in human history. It gives us the opportunity to look at what lies beyond our planet and ponder what is out there in the universe. Billy Miossi’s new documentary It’s Quieter in the Twilight looks at the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 satellites, which have been around since 1977 and are vastly approaching their 50th anniversary. But the documentary doesn’t focus on just the program itself; it gives us the human element behind the program and shows us why the people working these jobs are so important in making something like this successful.
When most people think of space, the focus is on either NASA, the astronauts who are partaking in the shuttle launches, or the machines themselves that are exploring our galaxy. It’s Quieter in the Twilight looks at the people who don’t get as much recognition and yet they should. They are the scientists and engineers who put everything together to make the program possible, and they don’t work directly for NASA. On the outside, it seems like they have a routine office job. But what they have been able to help discover in the program’s nearly 50-year existence has been fascinating. Miossi’s documentary gives them the spotlight they deserve and reminds the viewer of how much work goes on behind the scenes.
The documentary explores the lives of the people who work for a Southern California-based firm called Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). They come from a variety of backgrounds, but they all have the same level of passion and dedication to the Voyager program. When Voyager initially launched, there were about 1,200 people assigned to it. It was a big cause for celebration when the program began around the time that Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune were all going to be aligned in a way that occurs once every 175 years. What was more celebratory was when the satellites were successful in sending back data from those planets.
The Voyager mission officially concluded in the late 1980s, but the satellites are still orbiting space and sending the necessary signals to the scientists and engineers at JPL. While the program is still in existence, and is the oldest in the history of NASA, it doesn’t get as much attention as it once did. And the crew of roughly 1,200 who were there when its popularity surged, has dwindled to just 12 people.
Yes, you read that correctly. There are only 12 people who monitor and maintain the two Voyager satellites.
With the Voyager program nearing its 50th anniversary, there are talks of NASA shutting it down by 2027. But most of the 12 people who are still part of the mission have dedicated their careers to the program. Some have pushed back their retirement date, because of how much they care about Voyager. Others have sacrificed raises and promotions because of how much they love working on Voyager. And yet, funding has dried up and the recognition the program once received is basically non-existent.
It’s Quieter in the Twilight is a wonderful documentary that focuses on the love and dedication that lies in the hearts of the 12 people who still work on Voyager. Each one interviewed gives their backstory and what brought them to Voyager. Some have immigrated to America, while others knew from their early childhood that they wanted to be an aerospace engineer. And with each interviewee knowing that the program is most likely coming to an end, we see the pain in their expressions and the sadness that they feel.
Miossi does an excellent job of balancing the history of the program and spotlighting the behind-the-scenes crew who have made it possible. There are also some great messages about how everything has an end date, and how once you find something you love to do, you keep working on it until you can no more.
It’s Quieter in the Twilight releases to theaters and on demand on May 19, 2023.