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It is peaceful exploration that most excites scientists. Sorties into the unknown are often dismissed as wasteful, especially in a time of economic trouble. Yet space exploration has already paid for itself many times over. Many technological developmentsminiature electronics, microwave ovens, live TV broadcasts via satellitecan be traced to NASA-sponsored research. More benefits will surely follow as NASA expands the understanding of earth's solar system. The technology used in Voyager 1's independent intelligence could be adapted to robots that might replace divers in the dangerous work of deep-sea oil drilling. Learning about climate and conditions on distant worlds may instruct mankind in how to take better care of this fragile planet. But aside from such practical spinoffs, the exploration of space is in the very grandest of human traditions, profoundly stirring for its own sake. Carl Sagan says it well: "The exploratory instinct is deeply built into us and possibly an important part of the success of ourselves as a species." With the performance of Voyager 1, that instinct is thriving.
By Frederick Golden Reported by Jerry Hannifin and Joseph J. Kane/ Los Angeles