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Voyager 1 Exits Our Solar System

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the so-long-farewell-auf-wiedersehen-goodbye dept.

NASA 341

eldavojohn writes "The first man-made craft to do so is now entering a 'cosmic purgatory' between solar systems and entering an interstellar space of the Milky Way Galaxy. With much anticipation, Voyager 1 is now 'in a stagnation region in the outermost layer of the bubble around our solar system. Voyager is showing that what is outside is pushing back.' After three decades the spacecraft is still operating and apparently has enough power and fuel to continue to do so until 2020. The first big piece of news? 'We've been using the flow of energetic charged particles at Voyager 1 as a kind of wind sock to estimate the solar wind velocity. We've found that the wind speeds are low in this region and gust erratically. For the first time, the wind even blows back at us. We are evidently traveling in completely new territory. Scientists had suggested previously that there might be a stagnation layer, but we weren't sure it existed until now.' This process could take months to years to completely leave the outer shell but already scientists are receiving valuable information."

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341 comments

Amazing (5, Funny)

ossuary (1532467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296518)

It is just freaking amazing that things electronics can still work after being exposed to such an environment for so long. Good job Voyager and good job old school NASA. Just don't come back home in a few hundred years with a chip on your shoulder!

Re:Amazing (5, Insightful)

travisco_nabisco (817002) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296604)

I too am completely amazed that the Voyager is still sending back useful data after all these years.

Sometimes I wonder how much further ahead humanity would be if we built everything with the need to have it last decades before becoming nonfunctional, then I realize that with the rate technology has advanced, that is just not possible. Not to mention that we would have a totally different world economy if people weren't continually replacing perfectly functional items, from clothing to electronics to vehicles. So much of the global economy is dependent on people buying more things.

Re:Amazing (4, Funny)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296776)

we can't even make mars rovers that last very long....ohh wait.

http://xkcd.com/695/ [xkcd.com]

Re:Amazing (-1, Flamebait)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296926)

So you couldn't even find a way the most irrelevant xkcd cartoon relevant to the discussion on hand so you crafted a new post and then added a cartoon as its now "relevant."

That's some compulsion you've got there.

Next up: Commissioning new xkcd's on demand to match /. stories as they come up.
 

Re:Amazing (5, Insightful)

eriks (31863) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297182)

Not to mention that we would have a totally different world economy if people weren't continually replacing perfectly functional items, from clothing to electronics to vehicles.

Totally new world economy not based on consuming breakable crap, please! I'd like one.

Well designed, well-engineered products, that last, would be more "expensive", but in the long run, humanity and the planet will be better off when we finally switch over to a less wasteful system.

Fortunately we do have examples (like the Voyager probes) of good engineering, not that our washing machines and TVs need to be *quite* that well-engineered, but still, there's a lot of room for improvement.

Re:Amazing (5, Insightful)

keytoe (91531) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297364)

not that our washing machines and TVs need to be *quite* that well-engineered, but still, there's a lot of room for improvement.

This level of quality exists for almost anything you would care to buy. These items costs a bit more and they don't carry them at Walmart, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

Re:Amazing (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38298188)

not that our washing machines and TVs need to be *quite* that well-engineered, but still, there's a lot of room for improvement.

This level of quality exists for almost anything you would care to buy. These items costs a bit more and they don't carry them at Walmart, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

Except that 2 decades ago you could still find well engineered products that lasted that the middle class could afford to buy. Today you either have cheap crap from Walmart, or high end stuff. Whats missing is the whole middle class thing, where you could find quality at an acceptable price.
Not today unfortunately.

Re:Amazing (3, Insightful)

grouchomarxist (127479) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297808)

For some products this makes sense, but when it comes to things that change rapidly, like technology, you're making a trade-off between investing vs. features. If I choose a long lasting computer now I may miss out on features that are developed later.

With clothes there are probably trade offs regarding fashion, but then this is /.

Re:Amazing (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298160)

sort of, but old stuff still has a lot of use.

if you need raw speed for something other than games, it might be more economical to use EC-2 or some similar cloud service. otherwise your workplace most likely provides you with an adequate machine.

if you're a gamer, you could conceivably turn details down to maintain speed (the simplified view might actually make n00bs easier to pwn).

if you just browse, your netbook will give you years of use and can be repaired if need be.

phones are replaced far too often - even the oldest phones can make phone calls if they still work. the other features can be covered by your netbook (possibly tethered to your phone...).

all my home needs are covered by my shitty old netbook (overtaken by moore's law, well and truly) and my little media player box thing.

all my speed needs are covered by the various high spec machines at work.

when i get freelancing happening, i'll be looking at new hardware, but it's likely to last a while provided TV doesn't go up beyond HDTV and REDcode's current spec (which it shouldn't do for a while).

Re:Amazing (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297884)

Why wouldn't you want your washing machine last a long, long time? I know I do, and bought a Miele, the only brand that is actually manufactured in Germany (unlike all the others, being made in China). That washing machine cost twice as much as almost any other equivalent, but I figured it will last me about 4 to 5 times as long. It has already worked for longer than any other brand would have, and shows 0 signs of getting old. It seems I'll sooner sell this apartment than replace my washing machine.

Re:Amazing (2)

skids (119237) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298190)

Why wouldn't you want your washing machine last a long, long time

Well, washing machines haven't done much on the efficiency front, but if you were talking about a fridge, you wouldn't want to pay for the durability up front if it was going to cost you the same amount as a new fridge every 5 years in electricity, above and beyond what a new fridge would use. In that case, buying a cheaper model that needed to be replaced would actually save money, and ecological impact.

Re:Amazing (4, Interesting)

arielCo (995647) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297408)

Sometimes I wonder how much further ahead humanity would be if we built everything with the need to have it last decades before becoming nonfunctional, then I realize that with the rate technology has advanced, that is just not possible. Not to mention that we would have a totally different world economy if people weren't continually replacing perfectly functional items, from clothing to electronics to vehicles. So much of the global economy is dependent on people buying more things.

Only if you don't mind your next cell phone costing you a few months' salary. Top-notch quality in tech is costly:

The cost of the Voyager 1 and 2 missions -- including launch, mission operations from launch through the Neptune encounter and the spacecraft's nuclear batteries (provided by the Department of Energy) -- is $865 million.

(That'd be $3.2B in 2011 dollars)
http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/news/factsheet.html [nasa.gov]

Re:Amazing (2)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297868)

For a lot of items that is worth it.
for example my kitchen knives, they are rather expensive (not absurd, but easily 10x the price of the cheap walmart set), and worth every penny. I expect at some point my kids will be using them after I am dead.
much of my tools are of a similar build quality. I want to trust my tools not to break, at all under normal use, and not catastrophically under above max rating use. i.e. using a non rated socket on an impact driver. cheap socket will fracture and grenade, throwing shards of cheap chrome steel all over the place. high end sockets may break and crack, but usually only along one fault line then the socket expands and spins on the nut head, but does not throw debris.
-nB

Re:Amazing (2)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298098)

I expect at some point my kids will be using them after I am dead. much of my tools are of a similar build quality. I want to trust my tools not to break, at all under normal use, and not catastrophically under above max rating use.

I have my grandfather's household tools, keep in mind that in his day you did most of the maintenance and repairs of your home yourself so the collection is a little larger than one might guess. I have a granduncle's tools too and he was a carpenter. Unfortunately the wiring on his power tools are unsafe now but I also have his hand tools from the earlier part of his career. Too bad I flunked wood shop. If your stuff is built like the stuff from the 1940s and 50s it may make it well past your grandkids.

Re:Amazing (1)

catchblue22 (1004569) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298078)

Not to mention that we would have a totally different world economy if people weren't continually replacing perfectly functional items, from clothing to electronics to vehicles. So much of the global economy is dependent on people buying more things.

It doesn't have to be this way. We have made the economic system we are currently living under; it has been designed to achieve particular ends, such as efficient allocation of resources. This system is isn't a law of nature. We can change it. We can tweak it.

Re:Amazing (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38298082)

Yes. And that is the problem with the economy. When you can't muster the resources to keep "growing" as you blatantly can't on a finite planet, then you go into a world credit crisis because the whole thing is a house of cards built on the premise of waste. Waster of resources, waste of money. And economists call it "economy". If they knew anything about economy they would hire an ecologist to fix their basic theories. Boom and bust is a sign of a broken ecosystem, yet we're to believe that's how an economy should run (you can't get anything else with a "continuous growth" paradigm. It's nothing but a pyramid scheme on a grand scale.) Definitely, things should be built to last. Not building them to last is bad for the economy however it may look on the short term which sadly is all economists and policy makers look at to make nation shaping decisions.

Re:Amazing (5, Informative)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296628)

Voyagers transmitter uses a pencil type vacuum tube in the final amplifier. At the time they were designed there were no transistors that could operate at the required frequency and power level and also withstand the expected cosmic radiation in space. Tubes were the ONLY devices RAD hard enough to do the job.
Since then RCA has quit making tubes (and a lot of other stuff as well).

Re:Amazing (2, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297404)

But it's in a vacuum already. So all you need to do is stick a filament, an emitter, grid, etc onto the craft and away you go. You don't actually need the tube part. That just holds out the atmosphere.

Re:Amazing (4, Interesting)

travisco_nabisco (817002) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297536)

But with all those gusty extra-solar winds, who knows where the electrons will end up if we don't keep them in an enclosed space.

Re:Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38297686)

A vacuum with solar wind in it.

Re:Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38297474)

I wonder if that is the last vacuum tube working from that era?

Re:Amazing (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296634)

If they come back looking like Tricia Helfer I won't be complaining

This is what happens when Americans make things. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38296668)

It's too bad so many people here were born or grew up after 1990, at which point most American industry had been decimated and sent over to third-world shit heaps like China, India, and Mexico.

You people will never realize that American-manufactured goods were once the best there were. They were durable, they actually weren't that expensive, and you could trust them.

Then globalization and so-called "free trade" happened to ruin all of that. Products that you could once buy from an American manufacturer and you'd know they'd work perfectly for decades could now only be obtained from third-world manufacturers. Of course, they skimped on just about every aspect to make the product as cheap as possible. American-made equivalents would have lasted for many years, while these third-world manufactures often break after two or three uses!

But since the American industry has been destroyed, it's not even possible to buy American-made goods even if you wanted to. You're stuck buying shitty foreign products.

Re:This is what happens when Americans make things (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38296880)

Are you a communist?

Re:This is what happens when Americans make things (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38297202)

Are you a communist?

He's a realist. I've still got an HP 11C (made in the USA), bought it almost 30 years ago.
Its still going strong and boy do the batteries last. A pair of button batteries could last for 10/15 years of use. But that was a time when American industries acutally produced things, and management was not ruled by a band of legalised criminals.

Re:This is what happens when Americans make things (2, Insightful)

Third Position (1725934) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297632)

Are you a communist?

He's a realist. I've still got an HP 11C (made in the USA), bought it almost 30 years ago.
Its still going strong and boy do the batteries last. A pair of button batteries could last for 10/15 years of use. But that was a time when American industries acutally produced things, and management was not ruled by a band of legalised criminals.

While the rest of what you say might be true, management has *always* been ruled by a band of legalised criminals. Globalization has merely provided them with the means to dare what they wouldn't have gotten away with before.

dont you mean 'union made goods'? (4, Insightful)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296992)

lets face facts. they only outsourced for two main reasons.

number 1, to avoid the EPA

number 2, to avoid labor unions

all of that 'classic american technology' was built with union hands and by people paying union dues. they went on something called a 'strike' once in a while, too. fascinating concept - you stop working in order to improve conditions and pressure employers.

Re:dont you mean 'union made goods'? (5, Insightful)

zill (1690130) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297088)

number 2, to avoid labor unions

While I share your distaste of unions, there's no really way to avoid them in a democratic society. Democracy require the freedom of association, which will inevitability lead to unions if a majority of your workers are dissatisfied enough.

Re:dont you mean 'union made goods'? (4, Insightful)

mattack2 (1165421) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297274)

Then a company should be able to not hire someone if they belong to a union, as the company's (owner's) right, correct?

Re:dont you mean 'union made goods'? (1)

zill (1690130) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297504)

Yes, of course. But two problems will manifest itself:

1. If you hire someone on the condition that they will not join the union, then union will simply strike until that person is removed. This prevents you from getting new employees.
2. Employees will retire or jump ships.

Problem #1 means you can't add new employees, and problem #2 means you gradually lose employees, therefore you will eventually end up with 0 employees.

Re:dont you mean 'union made goods'? (3, Insightful)

mattack2 (1165421) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297554)

Will you really end up with 0 employees?

Why aren't there software engineer unions? (I've seen that mentioned here before.)

Also, aren't various companies anti-union in general? I think Walmart is one example (and yes, I know a lot of people hate them). Walmart does not seem to be in any danger of losing employees.

Re:dont you mean 'union made goods'? (4, Interesting)

zill (1690130) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297804)

Why aren't there software engineer unions? (I've seen that mentioned here before.)

Because the software industry is relatively new and treats its employees relatively well. Some industries with high percentage of unions used to mow down their workers with machine guns [wikipedia.org] , so the unions were originally a self-defense mechanism of the workers that was born out of necessity.

I think Walmart is one example (and yes, I know a lot of people hate them). Walmart does not seem to be in any danger of losing employees.

Walmart will close entire stores if the workers tries to unionize. So yes, they've probably lost millions of workers and thousands of stores across globe due to this tactic. But so far, like you pointed out, it's been quite effective (at a huge cost to Walmart).

However keep in mind that this tactic only works if you have a huge number of distinct locations across many different countries. Not many companies fit that criteria.

Re:dont you mean 'union made goods'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38298032)

Why aren't there software engineer unions?

Because there's no such thing as a software engineer?

Re:dont you mean 'union made goods'? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297654)

Why should a company put up with that nonsense? Strike and you're gone. There are plenty of other people who are willing to work.

Re:dont you mean 'union made goods'? (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297790)

Doesn't work this way.

1 - You hire people not from the union (without a clause forbiding them of joining). Unionised people go on strike. You let those go, and hire more people not from the union.

There are a few ways things may proceed from then:

1 - Good workers want to join the union. That is because both the union is good for them, and employers aren't. You are out of luck, since you won't replace those unionised workers with good ones.

2 - There are plenty of good workers out of the union. That is because no union is any good (a temporary situation) or because employers are not very exploitative. You are in good luck, you'll be able to replace those unionised workers with good ones.

Of course, all that can only happen when the government doesn't get in the way and mandates that you hire unionised people (or that only unionised people have the right ro work on a market).

Re:dont you mean 'union made goods'? (1)

cmholm (69081) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297660)

I suspect you're just making a rhetorical point, and logically correct.

On the off chance you weren't, you may wish to review US labor history, with the Pullman Strike [wikipedia.org] and passage of the Taft-Hartley Act [wikipedia.org] as especially significant milestones.

"Closed shops" are illegal in the US. Someone joining a company with a union contract may, however, be required to join a relevant trade union, or at least pay the dues.

The grandparent (troll-rated) post is correct as far as it goes (re: avoid EPA/unions), insofar as environmental regulations limiting externalization of costs into the public commons, and workers' contracts reduce the percentage of a given volume of surplus value an owner can claim for himself. However, I'd argue the prime drivers of industrial off-shoring were 1) China and India liberalizing their labor and industrial policies in the '80's, and 2) Walmart's heavier than typical focus on shaving costs from its wholesale vendors.

Re:dont you mean 'union made goods'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38297434)

Unless you live in a "right to work" state. Sure you can be fired easily but you can also quit just as easy. Not many unions here except when it comes to federal stuff.

The new plant Boeing is trying to open is a good example of how scared unions get when both workers and companies want to negotiate without a third party...just my 2 cents.

Re:dont you mean 'union made goods'? (2)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297888)

Boeing is moving to non-union plant in South Carolina because the machinists union in Washington struck just to slow down the 787 program and show Boeing how powerful the union was.

Re:dont you mean 'union made goods'? (2)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297768)

There are no problems with unions only with government support or hostility towards them. What is interesting is there are no neutral states. There are pro-union and right to work states. One uses force to make an employer deal with unions and the other forces them to allow people to work without joining unions. The neutral position would have the government take no stance on them. Like you said in a free society with freedom of association you would have unions form. But the employer would also have the freedom to deal with the union or not. There are some trade unions that are actually very good at providing training and maintaining standards for members like welders, pipe fitters, iron workers, and electricians. If the local union really consisted of the best talent then employers might want to work with the unions to get the best people and choose not to hire anyone not in the union. If the union was just a corrupt bunch of thugs the employer could choose not to deal with them. Also a good union would attract members while corrupt ones would lose them. This is the beauty of liberty.

Consumers, not businessmen, killed US made goods (5, Insightful)

drnb (2434720) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297794)

lets face facts. they only outsourced for two main reasons.

number 1, to avoid the EPA

number 2, to avoid labor unions

all of that 'classic american technology' was built with union hands and by people paying union dues. they went on something called a 'strike' once in a while, too. fascinating concept - you stop working in order to improve conditions and pressure employers.

You are not facing facts. The fact is that consumers killed US manufacturing. Consumers selected goods based on one and only one criteria: retail price. When presented with a high quality US made product and a less expensive foreign made product the US consumers overwhelmingly chose the foreign made good. It wasn't the CEOs, the 1%, etc. The 99% did it to themselves. Corporations don't care where things are made, only that they sell, and consumers chose what sells and what does not. Corporate greed can lead to domestic manufacture just as easily as it can lead to foreign manufacture, it just depends on US consumers favoring domestic production over retail price. Assuming you are a US citizen and you need a flashlight for your car, there is a $20 US made Maglite next to a $7 chinese made brand, what do you chose? What does your choice tell the Maglite CEO to do?

Unions knew this too. There was no shortage of "Save a Job, Buy American" bumper stickers in the 1970s. US Consumers didn't care, a classic example of tragedy of the commons.

Fortunately the internet has made it easier to find US made goods than one might expect by browsing local brick and mortar establishments.

Re:This is what happens when Americans make things (4, Informative)

mattack2 (1165421) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297250)

it's not even possible to buy American-made goods even if you wanted to.

While that's true for many types of things, ABC News has been doing a Made in America series for most of this year. (I've only seen a few of the reports when reaired on World News Now.) They've found lots of things made in America, and some was cheaper than the foreign made stuff. I don't remember all of the examples, but toys, furniture, cooking implements were some of them. (The most recent report I saw was a followup where the Bundt pan factory hired a few more people, at least partially because sales had gone way up since the last report.)

As others have said in past discussions of this type, what do you call a Toyota made (assembled/built) in Kentucky? Is that an American car or a foreign car?

I disagree with your main premise, but if you want "American made", you can find it, at least for many things.. but you'll sometimes have to pay more, and definitely will have to look harder.

Re:This is what happens when Americans make things (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297620)

its a foreign car because the profit goes over seas and is invested there.

Re:This is what happens when Americans make things (5, Insightful)

mattack2 (1165421) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297886)

Then by that logic, products made by American companies in other countries should count as "American made".

Re:This is what happens when Americans make things (2)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297312)

Products that you could once buy from an American manufacturer and you'd know they'd work perfectly for decades could now only be obtained from third-world manufacturers.

You mean, like American cars in the 80s? I used to see quite a few of those clunkers when I first came to the US, and their lack of quality was shocking.

Face it, American products had gone down the shitter a long time before NAFTA. I think this might be the equivalent of the uphill, through the snow, both ways stories old people tell.

Re:This is what happens when Americans make things (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297640)

And 20+ years later many of them are still on the road.

Re:This is what happens when Americans make things (1)

yodleboy (982200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298226)

I don't know where you are, but where I live most 80's vintage American cars don't appear to be in very good shape (paint jobs appear to be particularly bad quality in the 80s). There's a big difference between "still on the road" and "safely, reliably and comfortably still on the road". Still running is not a sign of quality.

Re:This is what happens when Americans make things (5, Insightful)

zixxt (1547061) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297500)

You people will never realize that American-manufactured goods were once the best there were. They were durable, they actually weren't that expensive, and you could trust them.

Any facts or figures to back up this hyperbole of a statement ?

Re:This is what happens when Americans make things (1)

wanzeo (1800058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297958)

Sounds to me like American goods were once like Chinese goods are becoming right now. Seriously, the jokes about Chinese goods being crap is showing its' age.

It pains me to think about it, but if I had to bet my pension on either the Americans or the Chinese building a successor to Voyager, I would go all in on the Chinese.

Re:This is what happens when Americans make things (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297870)

Like American cars, whose quality has vastly increased since 1990?

Or a 1980s Zenith TV compared to Sony?

As for it being impossible to buy American-made goods, the CPUs in my desktops and laptops were all fabbed in the United States in Oregon and Arizona, my car was built in the United States and is 93% American made parts, my pickup was made in Canada, but the engine, transmission and frame were all built in the United States and it's still over 75% American parts.

The airplanes I fly out of Alaska on are all made in the United States with American made engines.

Re:This is what happens when Americans make things (3, Funny)

yodleboy (982200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298148)

Whatever. I distinctly remember from Back to the Future that all the best stuff is made in Japan. And that was in 1985, so there!

Made in USA goods exist (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298192)

... it's not even possible to buy American-made goods even if you wanted to. You're stuck buying shitty foreign products ...

Try googling "Made in USA".

And when on a particular website see if "Made in USA" is one of the search filters: http://www.rei.com/search?search=Made+in+the+USA [rei.com] . Look at the categories and item counts on the left of this page.

Re:Amazing (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38297128)

It is just freaking amazing that things electronics can still work after being exposed to such an environment for so long. Good job Voyager and good job old school NASA. Just don't come back home in a few hundred years with a chip on your shoulder!

Well if you want to put the situation into perspective, Voyager one has been going on for 34 years and has YET to leave the solar system. Another 10 years and it will find itself on the threshold of interstellar space. And then no more power it will go dead. Think about it, 47 years in space and it will barely have reached the begining of interstellar space. Half the lifetime of a human being (more or less) and our fastest spacecraft is still right by our home. If this doesn't drive home just how far we are from really reaching into space nothing will.

Re:Amazing (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297310)

Well if you want to put the situation into perspective, Voyager one has been going on for 34 years and has YET to leave the solar system. Another 10 years and it will find itself on the threshold of interstellar space. And then no more power it will go dead. Think about it, 47 years in space and it will barely have reached the begining of interstellar space. Half the lifetime of a human being (more or less) and our fastest spacecraft is still right by our home. If this doesn't drive home just how far we are from really reaching into space nothing will.

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space, listen..." (HHGG)

Re:Amazing (1)

jackdub (1938908) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297628)

Which begs the question. What kind of hardware is on the terrestrial end to receive this signal beaming from 30+ year old antennas?
I would assume modern hardware for signal reception. Deep Space Network must have all sorts of different setups and antiquated stuff.

Moving goalposts (3, Informative)

Axalon (919693) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296544)

Wasn't the Oort cloud supposed to be the edge of the Solar System, and that's still a few trillion miles off.

Re:Moving goalposts (5, Informative)

Alyred (667815) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296698)

The Oort cloud is still theoretical, if I recall correctly, but more evidence is stacking up for it. You might be thinking of the Kuiper belt, which is where most of the trans-Neptunian objects lie. The boundary they are talking about is where the solar wind is overcome by the cosmic (intergalactic) plasma currents. Think about the coma on a comet and you have a similar picture to how our solar wind particles look.

The Oort cloud, if it proves to exist, is speculated to extend quite a ways out -- possibly 2/3 of the way to the nearest star by some estimations. It's a much looser "full shell" of relatively stationary objects, where the Kuiper belt is more similar to a large asteroid belt.

Wikipedia has some good visualizations and links --
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oort_cloud [wikipedia.org] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuiper_belt [wikipedia.org] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliosphere [wikipedia.org]

Re:Moving goalposts (2)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296720)

I don't think there's an accepted definition to where the edge of the solar system is. I've seen articles with this exact same headline published every few years for the past 15 years.

Re:Moving goalposts (5, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297664)

Voyager will define where the edge is. Or rather, returns enough data so we can decide where it is.

Really, it's past what was thought of as the edge of the solar system when it was built.

11 Billion (5, Insightful)

cyachallenge (2521604) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296566)

Voyager 1 is travelling at just under 11 miles per second and sending information from nearly 11 billion miles away from the sun.

This reminds me of just how big space is. What absurd distances we're talking about now. I can't be but at awe and terror when I think of the stars.

Re:11 Billion (2, Informative)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296702)

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space, listen..." -HHGTG

Re:11 Billion (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296742)

It's even more alarming because Voyager is 11 billion miles away and still might as well just be down the corner getting a pack of smokes in terms of its location relative to known concentrations of anything. 1.1*10^10 miles is a lot; but the nearest extrasolar star system is on the order of 2.5*10^13...

Re:11 Billion (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296866)

11 billion miles sounds like a long way when phrased like that. It doesn't sound so far when you write it as 16.4 light-hours, and remember that the nearest star is about 4.35 light years away. Or, to put it another way, it's travelled 0.043% of the distance from here to Alpha Centauri and is the furthest man-made object away from us. That really puts into perspective how much further (or, rather, faster) we have to go for interstellar space travel to be possible.

Re:11 Billion (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297668)

I can't be but at awe and terror when I think of the stars.

They say Aldebaran once killed a man at Rigel, just to see him die.

It's Proxima Centauri on the phone. He's calling from inside the Oort Cloud!

And then the hitchhiker turned around, and instead of a main-sequence class F, it was a red giant!

This news again? (5, Informative)

SecurityTheatre (2427858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296578)

It's really really cool that Voyager is still going, but this talk of crossing into the heliosheath, etc seems to be dragged out a bit (yes, it's a vague and slow transition, I understand...)

http://science.slashdot.org/story/05/05/24/2334240/voyager-1-crosses-the-termination-shock [slashdot.org]
http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/12/02/0243246/voyager-probes-give-us-ets-view [slashdot.org]
http://science.slashdot.org/story/10/12/14/1451216/voyager-1-beyond-solar-wind [slashdot.org]
http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/04/28/2314203/voyager-set-to-enter-interstellar-space [slashdot.org]

Re:This news again? (3, Interesting)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296648)

Usually these stories get trotted out right around budget cutting time.

good. someone has to fight the morons in congress (4, Insightful)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297012)

otherwise, the only thing we would ever spend money on is bailing out big corporations and bombing people.

Re:good. someone has to fight the morons in congre (3, Insightful)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297056)

The bombing people part involves paying big corporations for the bombs (and the vehicles used to deliver them) with lots of tax payer money anyway, so that's sort of a bail out too.

slashdot is in a stagnation region (-1, Offtopic)

MichaelKristopeit348 (1968130) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296600)

slashdot = stagnated

Re:slashdot is in a stagnation region (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38296782)

You have never used the word "stagnated" correctly.

Re:slashdot is in a stagnation region (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38296862)

You have never used the word "stagnated" correctly.

Damnit! That's how we knew it was the real MichaelKristopeit! Now you've gone and ruined the fun for the rest of us!

Re:slashdot is in a stagnation region (0)

MichaelKristopeit349 (1968132) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296978)

ur mum's face is stagnated.

i have used the word "stagnated" only correctly.

you're an idiot.

cower in my shadow some more, feeb.

you're completely pathetic.

Re:slashdot is in a stagnation region (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38297278)

No, I am correct. Also, you are more "stagnated" than you accuse Slashdot of being, since you keep repeating the same handful of stock phrases over and over.

Re:slashdot is in a stagnation region (-1, Troll)

MichaelKristopeit500 (2018072) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297748)

who is "I"?

you're exactly what you've claimed to be: NOTHING.

ur mum's face are more "stagnated" than the same handful of stock.

you just used "stagnated" in the same way i did... you're an ignorant hypocrite.

cower in my shadow some more, feeb.

you're completely pathetic.

Boooorrrrring (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38296690)

Wake me up when it finds Seven of Nine, then maybe I'll start caring again.

Voyager's on-board sensors (4, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296748)

They are hoping to get data on spectral lines not visible from within the solar system, with Voyager 1 now outside the solar system, but they're running into power budget issues. The battery is very, very low on juice, and with AAA not operating that far out, there's no chance of it getting any more. Data collected will therefore be rather more limited than NASA would like, but since existent data is zero any data will be an improvement.

I wish they would send some more of these (2, Informative)

youn (1516637) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296766)

With updated equipment, high resolution sensors/ cameras.... heck even put on a hubble like telescope while we're at it... a dozen of these in all directions.... that would definitely kick ass... >

Beautiful (3, Interesting)

Oqnet (159295) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296854)

I read this and I got chills. This is amazing to think that we, even if we ourselves physically have done it have left our solar system. This to me is my moon landing I can't wait to hear what they find once they pass the bubble shell.

Communications numbers (5, Informative)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297008)

The amazing thing (well, one of the amazing things) about the Voyager program is the communication link. Voyager's signal, as received on Earth, is almost unbelievably weak.

One can use the Friis Transmission Equation [wikipedia.org] to see just how weak the signal from Voyager 1 is at the moment:

Pr = Pt * Gt * Gr * (lambda/(4 * pi * R))^2, where

Pr is received power, in watts;
Pt is transmitted power, in watts;
Gt is the gain of the transmitting antenna, relative to an isotropic source (a unit-less value);
Gr is the gain of the receiving antenna (one of the 70m DSN antennas), relative to an isotropic source (a unit-less value);
lambda is the operating wavelength, in meters, and equal to c/f, or very close to 300/fM, where fM is the operating frequency in MHz;
and R is the range (distance) in meters.

Pt = 18 watts [nasa.gov] (assuming this hasn't degraded over time and distance);
Gt = 48 dBi [nasa.gov] , or about 63100;
Gr = 74 dBi [nasa.gov] , or about 25.1*10^6;
fM = 8420 MHz [nasa.gov] , so lambda = 300/fM = 0.0356 meters; and
R = 17,545,000,000 km [nasa.gov] , or 1.75 * 10^13 meters.

Grinding all this out, one is left with a received signal strength -- at the terminals of a 70-meter dish, mind you -- of:

Pr = 18 * 63100 * 25.1*10^6 * (0.0356/(4 * pi * 1.75 * 10^13))^2 = 7.45 * 10^(-19) watts, or 745 -- wait for it -- zeptowatts [wikipedia.org] .

This is equal to -181.3 dBW, or -151.3 dBm. (I don't know how many Libraries of Congress that is.)

In the year 2020, when the probe's power generator is expected to expire, the probe will be about 2 * 10^13 meters away from Earth; using the same calculation the signal will have weakened slightly, to 5.73 * 10^(-19) watts, or 573 zeptowatts, -182.4 dBW, or -152.4 dBm.

(Unless I've made some trivial calculation error, of course.)

Re:Communications numbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38297394)

I always mess up some mundane detail like putting a decimal point in the wrong place or something.

I wonder... (1)

binaryhat (2494814) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297026)

Are Voyager 1 & 2 the only space crafts to venture this far out? Did the Russian's launch anything similar?

Re:I wonder... (5, Informative)

SecurityTheatre (2427858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297194)

Voyager are not the only ones.

Pioneer 10 and 11 were both launched with sufficient velocity to escape the solar system. They were launched before Voyager, but did not have as large a velocity, so were passed by the Voyager probes in the 1990s as the furthest from the Earth.

I'm pretty sure this was planned, since the Pioneer probes has this really cool plaque on them (designed by Carl Sagan), in the event they were found by alien species:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_plaque [wikipedia.org]

Re:I wonder... (0)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298018)

And it sort of sums up the American populace, on one side we have brilliant engineers and scientists able to create probes that can leave the solar system, but on the other hand we have yahoos that somehow think the human wang and vagina are just SOOOOOOO dirty(despite the fact that both are required for us to even be here in the first place) that they didn't want any depiction of them whatever, lest Jesus get a boner or something similarly terrible....

Re:I wonder... (1)

BLToday (1777712) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297254)

None that I know of. AFAIK, the Russians never went beyond Venus or Mars. Although, I believe there was a Halley's Comet/Venus probe.

Re:I wonder... (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297910)

No one else has done deep space or outer solar system exploration.

The Soviets did Mars and Venus, the Americans are on target to have sent something out to every planet in the Solar System.

Obligatory pirate jokes (3, Funny)

zill (1690130) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297146)

'We've been using the flow of energetic charged particles at Voyager 1 as a kind of wind sock to estimate the solar wind velocity. We've found that the wind speeds are low in this region and gust erratically. For the first time, the wind even blows back at us.

Arrrgh, trim yer sails, and steady on, mate.

Next fortnight we shall leave the solar system and finally escape from the RIAA.

Re:Obligatory pirate jokes (2)

lennier (44736) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297718)

'We've been using the flow of energetic charged particles at Voyager 1 as a kind of wind sock to estimate the solar wind velocity. We've found that the wind speeds are low in this region and gust erratically. For the first time, the wind even blows back at us.

Arrrgh, trim yer sails, and steady on, mate.

Obligatory interactive fiction link:

Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home [eblong.com]

Half of the success is a good name (5, Funny)

Delirium Tremens (214596) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297156)

Of course, it would travel well with a name like 'Voyager'. It is not like we had called it Phobos-Grunt. I mean, come on, phobos means 'fear' in Greek. And grunt, well, that just does not sound good.

I'm just hoping Voyager doesn't come back. (0)

BLToday (1777712) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297284)

I'm just hoping Voyager doesn't come back. EVER.

There's never anything good when a probe gains sentient.

Did it hit the wall holding creation yet? (3, Funny)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297498)

I'm pretty excited for when Voyager crashes into the wall at the edge of creation. Then all the angels will fly in and all the sinners who believe in dinosaurs will be SOORRRY.

Re:Did it hit the wall holding creation yet? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38297994)

And this moment of boring tripe brought to you in the name of science!

Do you just try to be an asshole or were both your parents one so you just have it in your genes?

Very Old News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38298130)

I find this exact same news story runs a couple times a year, for about the last 5 - 10 years. And every time they use a headline similar to: "probe enters extrasolar space," only to be clarified later in the article that the probe has in fact, not reached extrasolar pace. But is in fact just on the cusp of it.

I'm all for motivating people about space exploration (not human exploration in particular). I assume the same similar story is routinely sent to the news organizations and on occasion finds itself in the news on slow news days.

Anyone else notice the same story being repeated over-and-over? Do you think this irresponsible of the public relations people to release statements of scientific achievement, when if fact little has been accomplished. Or is it the fault of news organizations for reporting the same story over-and-over, only reworded?

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