back to article SpaceX touches down in California as Voyager 2 spies interstellar space

SpaceX were cock-a-hoop this morning as the company landed its first booster at California's Vandenburg Air Force Base. NASA merely coughed politely and pointed toward its Voyager 2 probe, which looks to be about to enter interstellar space. SpaceX SAOCOM success SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster left its launchpad at Space Launch …

Anonymous Coward

Don’t call us plucky

We don’t know what it means

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Re: Don’t call us plucky

It means you're played with fingers instead of a bow.

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Coat

Re: Don’t call us plucky

Don't be cellist

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Coat

Re: Don’t call us plucky

Another comment thread descending into violins...

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Re: Don’t call us plucky

Surely this was orchestrated violins?

You can't conduct this any other way.

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Coat

Re: Don’t call us plucky

Another comment thread descending into violins...

Not to mention the gratuitous sax....

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Re: Don’t call us plucky

Stop that.

There's plenty of sax and violins on the web already.

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Facepalm

Don't be cellist

What a bassoon!

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Re: Don't be cellist

Thats a fagott.

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Re: Don’t call us plucky

I'm tone deaf to your puns.

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Pint

Always this------>

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Lack of Astonish!

It's not vaguely astonishing, it really is astonishing!

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Re: Lack of Astonish!

Over 10 BEEELION miles from home, and still working. Now, if we can just build cars to have the same MTBF

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Re: Lack of Astonish!

"MTBF"

at 895 million dollars for the pair even if you could build cars with that sort of MTBF there wouldn't be many takers.

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Re: Lack of Astonish!

You don't want cars built that way. In the last century, car safety has noticeably improved every year, accumulating huge gains. If cars were made to last a lifetime, there would be too many old, unsafe cars on the streets, driving up the injury rates a lot.

Once cars have been perfected is the time to talk of durability.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lack of Astonish!

"You don't want cars built that way. In the last century, car safety has noticeably improved every year, accumulating huge gains. If cars were made to last a lifetime, there would be too many old, unsafe cars on the streets, driving up the injury rates a lot."

All this is getting severely off the point and so on, and that's a perfectly valid point, but here's another angle:

The thing about the Voyager spacecraft is that they were engineered to do a particular job. The engineering was done appropriately, which is how come they are still just about working - albeit with some bits breaking and them generally being on their last legs what with the power supplies fading away. If I'd been involved in designing or building those craft, I'd be extremely proud of my work.

"Appropriate engineering" is exactly what's needed for cars, just as with the Voyager spacecraft - it's just what's appropriate for cars is not the same as for interplanetary space probes intended to run for decades.

Alternatively, you could take the view that the Voyager spacecraft were engineered with absolutely the best that could be done at the time, taking all things fully into account. If cars had been engineered like that in the 1970s, we'd've had cars operating with very nearly current safety levels 50 years ago (crumple zones, airbags, and anti-lock brakes were all "things" back in the 1970s; electronic stability control could have been by the end of the decade at least [yes it would have been bulky and expensive and power hungry and probably high-maintenance], and pre-tensioner seatbelts); and they'd be highly recyclable/reusable too - best possible engineering, remember - thus having a significant trade-in value, so replacing them when they got tatty and the new model had better fuel economy/comfort/whatnot would be more attractive than you might otherwise think. Also, there'd've been far less pollution if only because hardly anyone would have been able to afford the things...

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FAIL

Re: Lack of Astonish!

I wish we would build other software with so few bugs that runs that long.

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Re: Lack of Astonish!

"car safety has noticeably improved every year"

And the fun of owning and operating them has diminished. Modern cars are boring.

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ghp

Re: Lack of Astonish!

Do you think we're incapable? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence

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Re: Lack of Astonish!

Planned obsolescence isn't really a thing most of the time. Or at the very least not a conscious choice by the manufacturer. It's simply driven by cost. Cheaper stuff sells better, even if it lasts shorter. So margins go down, your competitor is undercutting you on price and you are losing sales. Do you A: Keep doing what you are doing and hope the average Joe looking for your products realises and cares your product lasts longer or B: Cut a few corners, shave a few dollars of the production cost and undercut or pricematch your competitor?

I can tell you manufacturers will go for B, because A doesn't make sense. People are stupid idiots, and that appreciation for quality and lifetime is often not important.

Cars are engineered to last roughly 3 to 4 years before requiring major maintenance. Because that's how long the average buyer keeps the car before buying another anyway. Second owners can either get bent or are profitable to dealerships in maintenance fees and spare parts sales (Plus, you've already sold the car to the first guy, so you don't care).

Yes they can make cars that'll last dozens of years without problem. It would be very expensive, probably rather heavy and still require regular upkeep to stay reliable. Meanwhile people are buying that new Volkswagen Passat or BMW 3 series because its cheaper to own over the 4 years they'll have it in their possession.

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Re: Lack of Astonish!

The software has had regular updates since launch - I believe at least one major upgrade (in 1990) to make it more autonomous has taken place. It's also a small amount of code (64KB RAM I think on them, with a tape drive for storage!) so when picked apart by a team at NASA you'd hope all bugs are caught early in development.

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Re: Lack of Astonish!

Meanwhile people are buying that new Volkswagen Passat or BMW 3 series because its cheaper to own over the 4 years they'll have it in their possession.

I can't see how that can be possible.

A 4 year old 3 series will have lost more than half its value. Unless it then goes on to need a new, well, almost everything, it isn't going to cost as much as the depreciation cost the first owner.

An entry level cooking variety 3 series costs a few pounds under 28k. Auto trader has them going from 8k in 2014 spec. That's a 20k loss in depreciation. There's no way on Earth that it'll cost more than that in repairs over the next 4 years; it won't cost more than a couple of grand unless you buy a thrashed & badly maintained car.

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Re: Lack of Astonish!

I believe that the commercial operating system VxWorks has a planet wide monopoly on Mars and surrounding it.

Software can be written properly, it's just that most script kiddies don't know how to do it and most finance departments won't pay for it.

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Pint

Re: Lack of Astonish!

You could buy a 4 year old car, buy a spare 4 year old car and have £4k to spend on important things like beer.

I have no earthly idea why any (not-rich) person would buy a brand new car and pay the VAT and massive depreciation.

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Re: Lack of Astonish!

"64KB RAM I think on them,"

Computer Command System, 4096 18-bit words; Attitude and Articulation Control System, 4096 18-bit words; Flight Data System, 8198 `16-bit words (there are two of each of the three computers, not necessarily for redundancy).

"with a tape drive for storage!"

Two digital 8-tracks, 1280 megabits, primarily used to buffer acquired data before the long, slow transmission back to Earth. Also not necessarily redundant.

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Unhappy

Re: Lack of Astonish!

"car safety has noticeably improved every year"

To make up for the fall in driving skill/attention/giveashitability.

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Re: Lack of Astonish!

I have no earthly idea why any (not-rich) person would buy a brand new car and pay the VAT and massive depreciation.

I think it depends on the car. Expensive flash things it doesn't make sense. My nearly-30-year-old Porsche 944 cost me £2500, and a few grand since then on maintenance.

But for the everyday car, it's often a good deal to buy a fairly basic thing (Skoda Fabia?) for new for maybe £10K (and the dealers offer some good cash deals!) and then drive it carefully for the next 10-15 years. Depreciation under £1K per year. Or buy a low-mileage one that's 4 years old for £6K, so again costing about £1K per year.

And buying from new you know who has sat in those seats!

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Re: Lack of Astonish!

@ Pen-y-gors

My 944's were daily drivers. Didn't need an everyday driver. They could also carry more than any sedan, except more than one passenger.

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No more planets?

"frankly, there is little point in keeping cameras that were designed to look at planets activated when there are no more planets to look at."

But, but...there could be a Death Star lurking out there, just waiting for us to relax our vigilance!

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Re: No more planets?

Promises, promises.

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Alien

Re: No more planets?

But, but...there could be a Death Star lurking out there, just waiting for us to relax our vigilance!

Quite, look what happened to Alderaan...

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Re: No more planets?

The ability to destroy a planet SpaceX-press-release is insignificant next to the power of the Force a 41 year old RTG.

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Alien

Re: No more planets?

Rebel propaganda. Alderaan never existed in the first place!

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Re: No more planets?

Alderaan? Surely you mean Druidia.

http://spaceballs.wikia.com/wiki/Planet_Druidia

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Re: No more planets?

> "Alderaan never existed in the first place!"

And anyway, they had it coming.

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LDS
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Big Brother

Re: No more planets?

Maybe they just passed by Planet X and the camera was off...

(Big Brother never turns the cameras off)

Anyway, just counting particles gives you interesting science...

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Re: No more planets?

"But, but...there could be a Death Star lurking out there,"

That's not a planet, it's not even a moon.

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Big Brother

Re: No more planets?

"Rebel propaganda. Alderaan never existed in the first place!"

Alderaan ? A planet? Nah- like the Rebellion, it has always just been a loose aggregation of sharp-edged fragments!

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Isn't it amazing

how much the abilities of NASA, indeed our abilities as mankind to think in long-term projects, build long-lasting stuff, make very much from very basic ingredients have deteriorated, and how much our expectations have kept pace on this downward spiral.

I do hope, that the speed of this change doesn't increase any more - lest I am still alive, when it hits the fan.

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Re: Isn't it amazing

You think it hasn't already?

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17.7 billion kilometres from Earth

Or, about 118 AU while Pluto never gets more than 49 AU away (from the Sun).

However, The Goblin goes out to 2000 AU so where does our solar system end? Does The Goblin go out into 'interstellar space' before coming back again in its orbit?

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Re: 17.7 billion kilometres from Earth

"Does The Goblin go out into 'interstellar space' before coming back again in its orbit?"

I presume so. I think interstellar space is defined as "where the Sun ceases to be the dominant influence on the local environment". In practice, that means when the solar wind drops below the local speed of sound (that's "sound" including magnetic waves), because nothing (*) outside that bubble can propogate inside (upstream). Put another way, inside the solar system the only thing you can hear is the Sun.

(* Well, nothing that is except light, cosmic rays and lumps of rock. I suppose that's not exactly nothing, but very little stops those things if they are minded to travel in your direction!)

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Re: 17.7 billion kilometres from Earth

There are no clear definition on what the boundaries of the solar system are. The one they use here is where the galactic wind overcomes the solar wind. Another would be the farthest out planet. A more common one would be where the gravitational pull of the sun is no longer dominant. This will be much much farther out.

In a galaxy, as we are, it would be usefully to think that the boundary is the border to next solar system and thus you would use gravitational border. But if you have some rouge object skipping through the galaxy it will never be outside of a solar system, but can you say that this object really have visited us if it pass us a light years distance? Also, will an intergalactic system (if there is such a thing) then have no boundary?

But if you use the "solar wind" boundary does that mean that comets and such regularly leave the solar system before returning?

It is simple, use the one that gives the best headlines.

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Re: 17.7 billion kilometres from Earth

"But if you have some rouge object skipping through the galaxy"

Jeweler's or cosmetic? Or are you referring to colo(u)r?

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Re: 17.7 billion kilometres from Earth

Don't forget that Voyager 1 "left the solar system" a few times. Even the boffins aren't sure.

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Re: Even the boffins aren't sure.

Fortunately, someone has been keeping count:

https://www.xkcd.com/1189

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Re: 17.7 billion kilometres from Earth

"some rouge object skipping through the galaxy" - must be Red Dwarf.

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Have you noticed that every time NASA's budget is up for review, one or other Voyager enters a new definition of interstellar space?

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That's just because NASA's budget is regularly reviewed. And we didn't know where the boundary of interstellar space was until Voyager 1 reached it. Which is why we were uncertain as to when it had happened. That's science...

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Some people really are interested in our fancy remote control gadget, that happens to be about to cross the heliopause, sampling a second, vital scientific data point on this previously theoretical zone of solar space.

So please stop giving poor old NASA grief over it. They don't get much right, but the Voyagers are very sweet spacecraft. If I could claim credit for them I'd never shut up!

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