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back to article Voyager 1 'close' to breaking through to DEEP SPACE - boffins

Boffins still aren’t sure just when the deep-space Voyager probe will cross the line into interstellar space, but new data from the spacecraft makes them believe it’s close. Voyager 1 Explores the 'Magnetic Highway' Voyager 1, which is now more than 18 billion kilometres from the sun, has now experienced two out of the three …

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Trollface

Wow...

18.5 billion miles from Earth and we can still get a picture of it from up close!

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Joke

Re: Wow...

That'll be from the support helicopter

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Anonymous Coward

17 hours

to receive data from it, and it's still a quicker rate than rural broadband

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Coat

Re: 17 hours

Good thing too.

It's not too bad when you only get asked; "Are we there yet?" every 17 hours.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 17 hours

Nah, it will be worse. You will still get asked that every 10 seconds (or how ever often NASA is asking Voyager 1).

Just with a 17 hour delay.

So if you do arrive their and you tell them "we are here!!!!", you will continue to get asked "Are we there yet?" for another 34 hours (17 hours for the question to get to you and another 17 hours for your reply to get back to them).....

And the delay just keeps increasin'!!!

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Happy

Re: 17 hours

Surely just the 17 hours, as the "we are here" will be sent in response to one of the delayed-by-17-hours questions!

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Re: 17 hours

"Surely just the 17 hours, as the "we are here" will be sent in response to one of the delayed-by-17-hours questions!"

Murphy's law says, the response eventually will be, "Nanu nanu, Earthlings!"

No, not E.T., not even Predator, Mork from Ork...

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Headmaster

Re: 17 hours

Nah, poor Voyager will have to endure a further 34 hours of questions after finally being able to answer "We're here!".

I.e. 17 hours of questions whilst the answer flitters back to Earth; but of course *during* those hours NASA have still been asking more questions. So assuming NASA stop asking on receipt of "We're here" there is still a further 17 hours of questions in-flight towards Voyager.

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Are we close to losing radio contact

How much longer will we be able to receive radio signals from Voyager given its distance. Also, have we prepared for when it returns with a tall bald woman?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are we close to losing radio contact

By the original estimates, about 10 years ago!

They don't build em like they used to y'now.

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Re: Are we close to losing radio contact

Bloody Carbon Units!

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Re: Are we close to losing radio contact

Once looked up about the error correcting methods they use to encode the signals and think they've changed the method once or twice as it got further away to take account of greate error rate. Anyway, when I did my maths degree *30* years ago I did a final year option on error-correcting codes and the lecturer even then said it was amazing that NASA were able to get signals from what amounted to a 60W light bulb somwhere near the outer planets ... even more amazing they are still in contact when it must be 4-5x further away!

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Alien

Re: Are we close to losing radio contact

V'ger is going to be mighty confused when it returns and finds the William Shatner has a better head of hair than he had when Voyager left Earth!

"Kirk-unit, are you wearing a rug?"

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Re: Are we close to losing radio contact

Probably further now, they've increased receiver power for radio telescopes by linking up the receivers, so receiving won't be an issue.

The problem will be the power supply or system failure, i.e. when the power gets so low that the transceiver stops working (or fails).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are we close to losing radio contact

They are, of course, getting some external help...

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Re: Are we close to losing radio contact

"...even then said it was amazing that NASA were able to get signals from what amounted to a 60W light bulb somwhere near the outer planets..."

Never underestimate the power of plutonium decay. :)

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Re: Are we close to losing radio contact

"The problem will be the power supply or system failure, i.e. when the power gets so low that the transceiver stops working (or fails)."

More likely a system failure or power supply regulator problem. The probe is powered by three RTG's.

To steal documentation, "The power output of the RTGs does decline over time (halving every 87.7 yrs), but the RTGs of Voyager 1 will continue to support some of its operations until around 2025."

Now, *that* is reliable circuitry! The RTG isn't amazing as is the ability of those ancient circuits of yesteryear to survive such an incredibly harsh environment and continue functioning.

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This tiny vessel

This tiny vessel, this minute speck of metal coasting through the gaping vastness of space, is a symbol of how we human beings, despite our fragile bodies, and our short and puny lives on this planet, have managed to harness our imagination and ingenuity to overcome once unthinkable odds, and lay claim to immortality...

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Unhappy

Re: This tiny vessel

No problem in the 1960s and 1970s. Makes this millennium a tad introspective in comparison.

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Re: This tiny vessel

You have to remember that the planets were literally aligned in voyagers favour back then.

Still another 150 years before such conditions will occur again

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This tiny vessel

Having just worked my way through a batch of Star Trek, it's good to get reality in focus again. We're not exactly getting anywhere yet with clever tricks to beat the physics involved, are we?

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Boffin

Re: This tiny vessel

"We're not exactly getting anywhere yet with clever tricks to beat the physics involved, are we?"

Well one of NASA's NIAC proposals was for solar sail version of Voyager. would be about 3x faster.

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Re: This tiny vessel

You, sir, get an upvote.

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Re: This tiny vessel

From what I read, you are right ! There is no reason to suppose both the Voyagers will not still be travelling the galaxy in a million years from now. Possibly the only remaining artifacts of a long gone race.

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Gav
Headmaster

Re: This tiny vessel

The vastness of space cannot "gape". Only things that have a something around it can gape.

</pedantry>

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Pint

Re: This tiny vessel

You put it well.

Long after we have been returned to dust, this tiny craft will still be coasting along.

Makes you think.

Another pint and I might have an answer . . . .

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Joke

Re: This tiny vessel

"Only things that have a something around it can gape"

You say that now, but when voyager bumps into the backdrop you'll be sorry...

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Megaphone

Re: This tiny vessel

OK, come on. Own up you downvoter you.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This tiny vessel

"Makes this millennium a tad introspective in comparison."

Yup. If they were starting out now, the marketing drones would insist priorities were Twitter capabilities and a Facebook account.

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Re: This tiny vessel

"The vastness of space cannot "gape". Only things that have a something around it can gape.

</pedantry>"

<pedantry>

There's no point in using a closing tag if you never used an opening one.

</pedantry>

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Anonymous Coward

Introspection

They don't call it the postmodern for nothing...

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Re: This tiny vessel

"We're not exactly getting anywhere yet with clever tricks to beat the physics involved, are we?"

Make it a question of, do it or you are extinct, we'd solve the problem in a New York minute, which is well documented to be sub-quantum time.

The time unit is why I'll stick with the threat of being shot in Philadelphia over either having a stroke or throttling half of NYC...

Damn! But, I really should have retired to New Zealand...

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Re: This tiny vessel

// <pedantry>

On these forums, it's on by default.

Attempting to turn it off on the way out is pointless.

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Pint

I remember following its launch

and the trip past the planets. Wonderful spacecraft, still going strong after all these years.

I will raise a glass to all those who made this feat possible.

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Re: I remember following its launch

NASA sure could build em good back in the 70's. Hard to believe that both Voyager spacecraft are still able to send data back. I wonder how long the plutonium powerpacks are good for on them?

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Go

Re: I remember following its launch

>> I wonder how long the plutonium powerpacks are good for on them?

Don't know, but I could do with one for my laptop...

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Re: I remember following its launch

They keep tweaking it, but somewhere between 2020 and 2025.

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Re: I remember following its launch

" I wonder how long the plutonium powerpacks are good for on them?"

They're rated to 2025. Even money, there'll be a few more years out of them due to over-engineering.

I can kludge together some really robust designs for circuits, but... Damn! That is REALLY good designs, considering the resources available back then.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I remember following its launch

" I wonder how long the plutonium powerpacks are good for on them?"

Plutonium 238, half-life of 88 years.

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Just think

if they'd got an extended warranty who knows what we could have discovered!

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Re: Just think

But would the return postage costs be worth it?

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Re: Just think

Well, considering the technology of the time, then considering the later Spirit and Opportunity rovers, I'd say that the extended warranty was long closed, but the devices worked far beyond even that expectation.

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Awesome reliability

I realise someone out there is probably still watching a telly from the 70s, but Voyager has been in a hostile environment for decades and is still working. Amazing.

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xyz

Re: Awesome reliability

>>but Voyager has been in a hostile environment for decades and is still working.

You make it sound like it's employed by HP

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Awesome reliability

Whilst I admire the feat of engineering that is Voyager, I've never seen it have to avoid a controller hurled at it before due to Street Fighter rage.... though, to be fair to it... it is almost older than the controller concept.

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Re: Awesome reliability

A decade ago, I retired my father's kitchen television from a year before the probe was launched.

Our very first color television.

It was a GE television, hybrid transistor and kludged solid state circuitry that had a mysterious arc that I never figured out until I scrapped the damned thing and found the carbon trail that would otherwise have never been found.

It finally failed and was replaced.

Interestingly enough, our 1964 B&W console stereo-television still operates. With vacuum tubes in the television and germanium transistors in the stereo. The CRT is gassy in the extreme, the high voltage "flyback" transformer is dodgy at best, due to melting of the insulation, but the thing still works.

Lost out on a bid for a first run RCA television, pure vacuum tube unit. Didn't share the information on how to adjust the ion trap with the bastard that won it by crook. May the neck arc through on him... :/

Old tech isn't bad tech, only dated. Though, dated technology ideas aren't necessarily obsolete. :D

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Re: Awesome reliability

"Whilst I admire the feat of engineering that is Voyager, I've never seen it have to avoid a controller hurled at it before due to Street Fighter rage.... though, to be fair to it... it is almost older than the controller concept."

Erm, even the mythical Incredible Hulk couldn't manage an arm sufficient to reach either Voyager.

Though, I, the Incredible Bulk may well be able to, due to gravitational boosting... ;)

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Mandatory XKCD comic

Voyager has left the solar system again?!

http://xkcd.com/1189/

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Stop

Re: Mandatory XKCD comic

I was wondering that. We seem to get these stories every few months, and will get them for the next couple of decades.

Setting arbitrary limits to a solar system, and trying to determine whether a small man made object has breached those limits, is a fool's errand.

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Re: Mandatory XKCD comic

Not quite. It isn't just fading away with 1/r^2 or something like that. The solar wind (blowing outwards) means that the solar system is a bubble with a shockwave on the outside. Give or take a few squillion miles, that bubble has a defined edge and that edge is in a physically meaningful way the limit of the Sun's domain.

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