Especially the 8-track recorders still going strong.
NASA's famous Voyager 1 space probe, sailing outwards into the interstellar void far beyond the orbit of Pluto, has entered a new and never-before-seen region of space thought to be the very edge of the "bubble" maintained around the solar system by the power of the Sun. "We shouldn't have long to wait to find out what the …
Soon we find out that Voyager 1 has been vaporised by the quarantine barrier set up by the Galactic Council in 1945 when they realised that a species capable of Nuking itself was perhaps a little too dangerous to be allowed loose in the Galaxy.
Yes, and in the long run, swapping a Vaxuall Astra for a Voyager probe it would have worked out approximately 10 times cheaper. By my maths, not allowing for inflation:
Vaxhall Astra 1.4
Purchase Cost (On the Road): £13,000
Running Cost/Year: £650
Fuel Cost: £9,828
Total Cost :£26,728
Purchase Cost (Launched): £219,200,000
Running Cost/Year: £4,800,000
Fuel Cost: Included in Purchase Cost
Total Cost :£382,400,000
The only problem with the Voyager option is that I doubt your bank would lend you the inital 219 million quid for the deposit.
On the other hand, it seems unlikely that you would live for the 17,926 years it would take your Vaxhaull Astra to reach the edge of the Solar System (plus 18 years to get your driving license in the first place).
It's largely marketing; there is a logic to it, but it's a bit tricky. One probe was launched to reach Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. The other probe was launched to reach Jupiter and Saturn and focus on Titan as it went by Saturn, and preferably to get there first.
Titan was a tantalizing world at the time (still is). It was known to have an atmosphere of methane and be larger than Mercury and the Galilean satellites and was speculated as a place where some form of life might conceivably have formed. In fact, Titan was considered important enough that, if something happened to the probe that was to fly close by it, the second one would sacrifice the trips to Uranus and Neptune for a good look at Titan.
Because of this and the alignment of the planets, the craft going to all four planets had to launch first to arrive at the right time on the right trajectory to reach all four. I think I read once that, to reach Uranus and Neptune, the margin for error at Saturn was very very small, the equivalent of sinking a 900 ft putt without rimming the cup. However, it would also arrive at Jupiter AFTER the Jupiter-Saturn-Titan probe, partly from the math and partly to know which trajectory to take (Uranus-Neptune or Titan). Since the later launching probe was arriving at Jupiter first, it was called 1.
Beer, because my brain hurts
When you get to the edge of the 'bubble' is there a large sign saying "You are now leaving the Solar System. Only space probes travelling to other stars may go beyond this point. Please have your papers ready for security. You are not permitted to carry the following items ..."
More interesting: what language is it written in?
"Voyager 2 remains the only spacecraft ever known to have visited the outer planets Uranus and Neptune"
Is this to cover the possibility that LGMs have visited Uranus and Neptune, or that NASA, the Soviets or China sent some undercover space missions there that we haven't been told about yet?
Your LGM hypothesis does not adequately explain this convoluted bit of journalese.
For, if some extraterrestrial space-probing species had sent a visitor to Uranus and/or Neptune, it's odds-on *they* would have known about it.
NASA does not attempt this lets-give-the-aliens-the-benefit-of-the-doubt contortion. The mission website says "Voyager 2 went on to explore Uranus and Neptune, and is still the only spacecraft to have visited those outer planets".
PS - for certain values of "visited". Try telling your mother that you swung by 50,000 miles away doing a million kph to take a few snaps, and see if she thinks that counts as "visiting".
I would speculate that the reason they don’t, is because NASA personnel know how far away the stars are. Furthermore, if they did acknowledge the possibility in any way, they would be totally unscientific as there is no evidence yet of extraterrestrial intelligent civilizations.
And it may well be there is no such thing as an interstellar spacefaring race anywhere! After all, the age of the Earth is a significant fraction of the age of the Universe, and in order for our Solar System to exist at all there must have been at least one complete generation of supergiant stars, and I think that in order to get the amount of interesting elements like uranium that we find on Earth there was probably another generation of star formation in between too. We may in fact, as improbable as it seems, be the first spacefaring life in the cosmos — we have exactly as much evidence for that as we do against it.
About 98,192.85 Billion Linguini
Standards converter page, it's there for a reason
It's also travelling at approximately at 0.5158% of the maximum velocity of a sheep in a vacuum, but I couldn't be bothered to convert that to furlongs per fortnight
It makes me feel tremendously proud of us as a race that these voyagers are out there, so far from home and still going. They will continue to travel, and outlast us all, even though at some point in the next decade or so their RTGs will decay to the point where they generate insufficient power to allow them to keep communicating with the miniscule dot surrounded by other tiny dots that is their view of the place we all call home.
"For the past 22 years they have been not merely space probes but star probes"
That's like saying when I'm in my garden I'm visiting my neighbour's house. They're still WAY closer to the sun than to any other star.
Also, her 39-year mission? When launched in 1977? Someone needs a new calculator.
Still, it's amazing that the probe is still functioning after 34 years, and the timeline (Voyager was launched when I was 5, and I just celebrated my 40th birthday) really gives you a sense of how big space is, when it's not even out of the vicinity of the sun after all this time!
New Horizons, the mission to Pluto, had the highest Earth departure velocity but it will never overtake Voyager 1.
Voyager 1 was accelerated by gravity slingshots around the outer planets during it's visits and currently has the highest cruising speed of any probe so far.
Voyager, Pioneer and New Horizons. A million years from now they will likely still be out there, silent and alone in the darkness between the stars. Testaments to the existence of a species long since gone (extinct or ascended, take your pick), and perhaps forgotten.
God speed and a safe journey.
And would any probe these days get the kind of buy-in (and funding) to develop something which could radio home from that distance?
I continue to be enthralled by the idea of a man-made device which can still manage to signal to us from that distance. It's astonishing. I've actually spent hours geeking out on the comms logs, imagining how long it took for each bit to reach us from out there. It's a feeling we need to get into our kids, the wonder of it - to keep them engaged with learning itself.
Also - Lewis, spotted another blunt reference to how great Nuclear power is there. Tut.
Won't be much of one, I promise...
What tech from 34 years ago still has the power to make us go "Wow!" like the stories of the Voyager probes do? How awesome does it seem that the probes that were constructed on a (relative) shoestring, boosted millions of miles across space /continue/ to massively outlive the projected lifespans and send more data than we could have ever possibly imagined?
Yet the stupid twunts in power cut the budgets.
At a time when we are seriously starved of feelgood stories, when the world spends more on killing each other in a week than they do on space in a year (15B$ on nasa, 1+T$ on military), when we need something to prove that cutting edge research not only gives results, but gives results that make folk sit up and look at the universe.
Sometimes I wonder if it's worth digging our way out of a hole.
Feel better for that. Cheers.
According to my electric diary, things that still make people go "Wow!" from 1977 include:
Apple was incorporated in early 1977, Apple II released a couple months later.
The self titled "The Clash" album was released.
Optic fiber first used "in the wild" for telephony.
Insulin first grown in the lab.
Software Development Labs incorporated (now known as "Oracle Corp.").
First oil through the entire length of the Trans Alaska Pipeline.
Tandy's TRS-80 was released.
First Space Shuttle tested with tethered & free flights on and off a 747.
WOW! (sic ... look it up.)
Eradication of Smallpox.
"Never mind the Bollocks" released.
Harvey Milk elected as City Supervisor of San Francisco.
London to New York Concorde service.
"Have Blue" flies for the first time (This entry added as a link to the official announcement over a decade later, for somewhat obvious reasons).
On a more personal note, I got my first contract designing and installing a client/server based computer network (Arcnet-based CNC machine network in Oakland, CA). I was still at Uni ... Two days before I landed the contract, we had hooked up the first three TCP/IP nodes on the then ARPANET ...
WOW! is a perspective thing ...
in the intensity of high-energy electrons" That's very, very impressive stuff.
However, to quote the Dane, "I'll have grounds more relative than this."
Sure, I'd like to see some interstellar space between Voyager and my roof top. And then some solid proof Voyager's not still in the envelope.
Then there's intergalactic space.
(Doesn't this remind you a bit of Nimrod shooting his arrow from the top of the Tower of Babel?)
The idea of Voyager floating through space with only its 8 track for company is brilliant.
If only it was blasting out Rita Coolidge's Higher and Higher, Fleetwood Mac's Don't Stop, Foreigner's Cold As Ice and of course the theme from Star Wars (also a number 1 hit in 1977).
(Before the pedants get on their soap boxes: use your imagination dudes)
My inner geek got quite excited by this article. Considering the distances involved thing seem to happening quite quickly out there. These layers seem to be relatively thin.
I did wonder if there will be issues when the probe passed through the boundary. Will the radio signals be bounced by the different layers? It's only got a couple of hundred Watts to play with.
That's remarkable in itself, 3 lighbulbs of power and we can still pick it up.
Why is there no 'WIN' icon for this ?
At this pace Voyager will never make it to the machine planet and be back in time to save the whales and help Captain Kirk with his one conquest that was actually a HUMAN female!!
(Of course, she was a 20th century whale-loving lady, so she wasn't aware of Kirk's interstellar bad boy rep. Thus she was helpless before his whole BS "You're into whales too!?" approach combined with the awesome power of 23rd century hair restoration technology)
Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 likely got there before Voyager but we haven't been in contact with either for years so there's no way to know for sure. However, based upon when they were launched and their intended trajectories, they are theoretically the farthest flung human devices ever.
Ed: "Hey Rob - looks like we're just about to cross the heliopause."
Rob: "Great! Interstellar space, here we come..."
Seriously though, there's something a bit melancholy about the thought of these tiny spacecraft gamely soldiering on out there, and something hugely impressive about 1970s-era hardware still functioning in an incredibly hostile environment. Well done, guys.
There's also the tantalizing possibility that they are offering us a glimpse of new physics, in particular that the force of gravity may not be quite as Newton and Einstein thought.
They're off-course by a tiny but measurable and unexplained amount.
There are of course various hypotheses about why this is, other than new physics. We can't tell, because they weren't built as fundamental physics experiments. Perhaps some new probes should be sent after them, that are designed to probe the nature of gravity.
"Voyager has detected a 100-fold increase in the intensity of high-energy electrons from elsewhere in the galaxy diffusing into our solar system from outside"
Funny how articles like this continue to talk of streams of ionised particles (e.g. protons) and electrons as a solar 'wind'. If electrons are moving in space, this constitues an electric current (which generates an electric field). If electrons are moving, there must be a potential difference (voltage) causing them to move. High energy electrons must be being forced to move by a very high potential difference. If these electrons are from elsewhere in the galaxy, then the stars in this galaxy are linked by a series of electric currents and voltages. All this stuff about wind is a load of hot air
You need to read up a bit on magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
The basic idea is that the gas is so hot as to be a fully ionised plasma (and extremely rarified). The electrons are very mobile and immediately move to neutralise any electric fields (and so no potentials as you're talking about). The magnetic field is key to this "fluid", and acts like it is "frozen in" to the plamsa sweeping along with it (and the electrons can only move freely along the mag field lines). You can then think of the "wind" as two fluids (essentially protons and electrons) flowing through space but neutral on average. Due to the mag field you get cool things like different temperatures parallel to and perpendicular to the mag field.
As for the electrons coming from elsewhere in the galaxy, they could be flowing along in an interstellar wind (in a fluid that is neutral overall) or they could be from extra-solar helium and hydrogen that gets ionised at the bow shock (that the Voyagers passed through).
Rest assured the people working on this stuff really do get it, and calling the solar wind a "wind" is a fair analogy.
Also I'm pretty sure the 8-track recorders stopped working (or were turned off) long ago. We only get "live" data from the Voyagers when they are covered by the DSN, and when we're not actively listening, the telemetry (and data) is lost.
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