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35 Years Later, Voyager 1 Is Heading For the Stars

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the watch-out-for-black-holes dept.

NASA 226

DevotedSkeptic writes with news that today is the 35th anniversary of Voyager 1's launch. (Voyager 2 reached the same anniversary on August 20.) Voyager 1 is roughly 18 billion kilometers from the sun, slowly but steadily pushing through the heliosheath and toward interstellar space. From the article: "Perhaps no one on Earth will relish the moment more than 76-year-old Ed Stone, who has toiled on the project from the start. 'We're anxious to get outside and find what's out there,' he said. When NASA's Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 first rocketed out of Earth's grip in 1977, no one knew how long they would live. Now, they are the longest-operating spacecraft in history and the most distant, at billions of miles from Earth but in different directions. ... Voyager 1 is in uncharted celestial territory. One thing is clear: The boundary that separates the solar system and interstellar space is near, but it could take days, months or years to cross that milestone. ... These days, a handful of engineers diligently listen for the Voyagers from a satellite campus not far from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which built the spacecraft. The control room, with its cubicles and carpeting, could be mistaken for an insurance office if not for a blue sign overhead that reads 'Mission Controller' and a warning on a computer: 'Voyager mission critical hardware. Please do not touch!' There are no full-time scientists left on the mission, but 20 part-timers analyze the data streamed back. Since the spacecraft are so far out, it takes 17 hours for a radio signal from Voyager 1 to travel to Earth. For Voyager 2, it takes about 13 hours."

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226 comments

You have to give it to the engineers (5, Insightful)

PCK (4192) | about 2 years ago | (#41233311)

Granted it's built to more demanding specifications, but something lasting 35 years in deep space is quite an achievement.

Re:You have to give it to the engineers (5, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#41233335)

The problem is hard and easy. It's hard in that the primary problems of deep space spacecraft are very difficult, such as maintaining electronics for decades in an environment with hard radiation. But it's easy in that the environment doesn't change.

You engineer for a fixed problem. Once you have something that works for a time in deep space, then you can tweak that solution to greatly extend the lifespan.

Re:You have to give it to the engineers (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41233389)

You sound like a 20-something snot-nosed punk. You were born into a technological world made possible by engineers and other people with an engineering mindset.

Re:You have to give it to the engineers (0)

jellomizer (103300) | about 2 years ago | (#41233939)

You sound like a 70 something retired engineer. Who had technology advance beyond your comprehension. So you get old and grumpy and say how you job what that much harder then today, although you are no longer able to keep up with what today's engineers are doing.

Re:You have to give it to the engineers (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41234363)

Actually, he's saying that his job was easier than what the current generation is doing with robotic devices. Look at Mars. Rocky terrain, sandy terrain, dusty terrain, soft terrain. Sometimes it's light, sometimes, it's dark. These are variations in the environment. With Voyager, they had exactly one environment to plan for. That environment had some very difficult problems to overcome but once they'd made their solution work for one environment, they were done. They didn't have to make their solution work for another environment.

In other words, congratulations on being an angry bitch who sees the worst in everyone.

Mod Parent Up (1)

sdoca (1225022) | about 2 years ago | (#41234619)

I would if I could....

Re:You have to give it to the engineers (0)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#41234745)

>>>>>very difficult, such as maintaining electronics... with hard radiation. But it's easy in that the environment doesn't change. You engineer for a fixed problem.
>>
>>You sound like a 70 something retired engineer... you get old and grumpy and say how you job what that much harder then today

You got a 70% on your English SAT didn't you?
You're reading comprehension is zero. HE said it was "easy" because the environment is constant and known, but you somehow twisted it into "much harder". As kids today say: Fail.

Not really... (4, Insightful)

xded (1046894) | about 2 years ago | (#41234795)

Radiation damage builds up with time, see Total Ionizing Dose (TID) effects [wikipedia.org] . Not so easy to "tweak" silicon devices to counteract lattice displacement effects (the only real solution being not relying on the silicon lattice, i.e., working with vacuum tubes).

Re:You have to give it to the engineers (4, Interesting)

DevotedSkeptic (2715017) | about 2 years ago | (#41233369)

You are definitely correct. It is amazing to think that technology from 35 years ago is still operating and sending back data. We generally don't keep cars around for 35 years let alone computers, phones, or even kitchen appliances. Now there is a world of difference between these things i mentioned and the tight tolerances that went into Voyager, but it still absolutely amazing what we as humans have accomplished. Carl Sagan would have been excited with the current Mars Rover, along with all of the other projects that we have successfully launched, but I think he would be a bit saddened by the state of the manned programs.

Re:You have to give it to the engineers (4, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#41233403)

Not to understate the achievement, but comparing it to consumer hardware like cars is a bit of apples and oranges. It'd be more akin to military grade hardware like ships and planes. Of course, even for some of those, 35 years is a stretch... and NASA has never had the budget that the military does.

Re:You have to give it to the engineers (5, Insightful)

petteyg359 (1847514) | about 2 years ago | (#41234033)

That's why NASA gets stuff that works, and the military gets stuff that lets the contractors line their Olympic-sized pools with money.

Re:You have to give it to the engineers (4, Insightful)

Dr. Spork (142693) | about 2 years ago | (#41234043)

Let's not forget that ships and planes have regular maintenance. This is a huge portion of the DoD budget. But nobody has taken a wrench or a soldering iron to the Voyagers in 35 years. At best there have been firmware updates.

Re:You have to give it to the engineers (1)

w_dragon (1802458) | about 2 years ago | (#41234053)

Just to be clear, that's 35 years without maintenance or refuelling. Maybe there are a couple military satellites still going that are 35 years old, but I doubt there's much else that hasn't undergone some major maintenance in that time.

Re:You have to give it to the engineers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41234513)

The British put up Prospero back in 1971. Does that count?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prospero_%28satellite%29

Re:You have to give it to the engineers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41234637)

And you should not forget the Planned Obsolescence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_Obsolescence) which plagues all consumer hardware.

V'GER! (5, Funny)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 2 years ago | (#41233313)

You will disclose the First Post. V'GER requires the information.

Re:V'GER! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41233451)

You will disclose the First Post. V'GER requires the information.

V'ger failed to get first post. Danger of disclosure: averted.

Re:V'GER! (2)

orateam (861461) | about 2 years ago | (#41233699)

Tell VGER we will NOT give up the information!!! Only through direct INPUT can WE communicate with Vger! I believe your child is throwing a tantrum.

Has it made it ? (5, Informative)

mbone (558574) | about 2 years ago | (#41233325)

If you look at this picture [nasa.gov] , it sure does look like Voyager 1 may have left the solar system (in a plasma sense) in late August. (In other words, it is no longer seeing protons from the solar wind, which means it may be outside of the Sun's bubble of plasma, and into the interstellar medium.

If so, it has impeccable timing.

Re:Has it made it ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41233915)

The Sun's sphere of influence isn't going to be static. The sphere will adjust with effects of solar output and who knows what forces from the other side. It could very well be that it did pass the threshold at one point and the heliosphere adjusted to some conditions and caught back up to the space craft.

Always the frontrunner? (4, Interesting)

Coisiche (2000870) | about 2 years ago | (#41233327)

It would be nice to think that one day we'll reach a technological level that allows us to overtake Voyager 1. I'm not that hopeful though. I think that the head start Voyager 1 has means that it always will be more remote from Earth than anything else constructed here. Excluding Pioneer 10, that is.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (2, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#41233339)

Not in our lifetime. The CEOs and the politicians all need new Ferraris!

Re:Always the frontrunner? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41233381)

Yes because if CEOs and politicians didn't get their Ferraris, the standard model would magically no longer exist and faster-than-light engines would appear. /Go-go class warfare!

Re:Always the frontrunner? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41233509)

What in gods name are you blabbering about?
Do you know how slow those ancient things are going at?
A shuttle could (have) overtake(n) it.

This isn't even going in to the new engines we are developing now for the next generations of spaceships all around the world.
If those actually come out any time soon, we most likely could reach those things in our lifetimes. (from around an average of 30~ and given good-ish health)

Hell, at that point in time, who knows what we would know compared to now.
Don't even begin to think we fully understand physics, we don't. We have some basic ideas that follow some observation pretty loosely. (ESPECIALLY standard model of all things)
We are only just beginning to get a grasp on the standard model now that we may have found Higgs, keyword may. Some evidence for dark matter has also been popping up recently, but we still have no idea what it actually is and will take something stupidly more expensive than LHC in order to possibly not find it or even anything at all. (I guess they could always say "b-b-b-but high energy physics! fusion! WARP SPEED!" or something along those lines, they only need to impress some people in pololotics, not that hard)
Black holes still plague one of the only theories we have for large-scale.
Maybe in half a century from now we might have a better clue, but we are still in the toddler stage at best.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41233981)

Wait, you think a shuttle was designed & built to travel 11 billion miles into deep space?

Either you're a great troll or a complete moron.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41234483)

The CEOs started the class warfare in 1981.

Oh, and the current velocity of Voyager 1 is only 17,060 m/s. That's 5.691 x 10^-5 [wolframalpha.com] of the speed of light. If we sped up just 100 fold, we'd still be at thousandths of the speed of light, but catch up in less than six months.

But thank you for again demonstrating that Republicans have no sense of proportion.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (5, Insightful)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 2 years ago | (#41233491)

CEOs and the politicians all need new Ferraris!

Average people all need new mobile phones and x-boxes, when they could have pooled that money for space exploration. CEOs and politicians make easy targets.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (3, Insightful)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | about 2 years ago | (#41233629)

So it's socialism for the rich and capitalism for the "masses?" Fuck you.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41234393)

the money the politicians get is public, that from average people is private. That makes a hell of a distinction

Re:Always the frontrunner? (4, Insightful)

lw7av (1734012) | about 2 years ago | (#41233371)

We won't be able to overtake but a space probe could in the immediate future (50 yrs). Plasma/ion propulsion and solar sail technologies are being developed with deep space exploration in mind.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (3, Informative)

mbone (558574) | about 2 years ago | (#41233407)

It would be nice to think that one day we'll reach a technological level that allows us to overtake Voyager 1. I'm not that hopeful though. I think that the head start Voyager 1 has means that it always will be more remote from Earth than anything else constructed here. Excluding Pioneer 10, that is.

Voyager 1 is currently the most distant man-made object [nasa.gov] , and is more distant than Pioneer 10.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (0)

Atzanteol (99067) | about 2 years ago | (#41234251)

Yes - but Pioneer 10 is moving away from us faster than Voyager 1 is - so at some point it will overtake.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (4, Informative)

mbone (558574) | about 2 years ago | (#41234491)

Sorry, but wrong. Voyager I overtook Pioneer 10 in 1998 [uiowa.edu] :

Until 17 February 1998, the heliocentric radial distance of Pioneer 10 has been greater than that of any other manmade object. But late on that date Voyager 1's heliocentric radial distance, in the approximate apex direction, equaled that of Pioneer 10 at 69.419 AU. Thereafter, Voyager 1's distance will exceed that of Pioneer 10 at the approximate rate of 1.016 AU per year.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41234585)

How could Pioneer 10 have been launched first, been the most distant object in 1997 [nasa.gov] , been passed by Voyager 1, and pass Voyager 1 again? There's no further acceleration, and, for any reasonable human time frame, the solar system is essentially moving in a straight line.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (3, Informative)

invid (163714) | about 2 years ago | (#41233421)

Voyager 1's current speed is 17.46 km/s. That's fast, but the speed of light is about 299,792 km/s. We could right now, using nuclear propulsion and spending ridiculous amounts of money, we could reach about 10000 km/s and reach Voyager.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (4, Informative)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41233429)

It would be nice to think that one day we'll reach a technological level that allows us to overtake Voyager 1. I'm not that hopeful though. I think that the head start Voyager 1 has means that it always will be more remote from Earth than anything else constructed here. Excluding Pioneer 10, that is.

There's some planetary alignment issues such that it would be really hard to catch Voyager. The New Horizons probe, despite being something like the fastest probe ever launched, is moving considerably slower because it had unfavorable gravitational assists, something like 10% slower than voyager. The planets have to line up, unless you do something ridiculous like launch a tennis ball a Saturn-V

Both are practically slow crawling compared to the Helios probes from the late 70s/early 80s which were moving something like 6 times the speed, although toward the sun not away. The Helios probes are still the fastest controllable "things" produced by mankind. The "controllable" is necessary because there's a famous nuke bomb test film where analysis of adjacent frames shows a manhole cover moving about about 0.1c... at least for a little while.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (4, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 2 years ago | (#41233921)

The manhole in question went 45 miles a second. That's around 70 kilometers a second whereas the speed of light is around 3*10^5 km/s. So it was going around .002 the speed of light, which is still very damn impressive but is a lot less than .1c. See http://professionalparanoid.wordpress.com/the-fastest-man-made-object-ever-a-nuclear-powered-manhole-cover-true/ [wordpress.com] for more about the manhole cover and the circumstances of its launch.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (2)

KernelMuncher (989766) | about 2 years ago | (#41234181)

ha ha - great story about the world's fastest manhole cover ! That should have it's own slashdot entry.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (1)

spectrokid (660550) | about 2 years ago | (#41234343)

How about ion engines, or solar sails?

Re:Always the frontrunner? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41234503)

Ion engines need plasma to eject - that means more mass even if it only ejects tiny, tiny, tiny amounts it will take hundreds of years to reach any speed.

solar sails quickly become useless as the solar pressure fades. I'd rather have ion engines.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (1)

InfiniteZero (587028) | about 2 years ago | (#41234647)

> manhole cover moving about about 0.1c

A manhole cover [wikipedia.org] has a mass over 50kg. Traveling at 0.1C, it's kinetic energy would be over 2x10^18 joules [google.com] , which is about half a gigaton TNT equivalent [wikipedia.org] .

By comparison, the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated [wikipedia.org] had a yield of 50 megatons.

Moral of the story: never underestimate the venerable C (when compared to human scale objects and measurements).

Correction (1)

InfiniteZero (587028) | about 2 years ago | (#41234767)

It should be 2x10^16 joules, or 5 megatons (somehow 0.1C became C in the Google equation while copy-n-pasting). A little less impressive but still highly unlikely.

Note to self: preview is your friend.

A trail of breadcrumbs (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41233487)

It would be nice to think that one day we'll reach a technological level that allows us to overtake Voyager 1. I'm not that hopeful though. I think that the head start Voyager 1 has means that it always will be more remote from Earth than anything else constructed here. Excluding Pioneer 10, that is.

We should have had planned and launched follower communication relay spacecrafts to maintain communication with them.

But even though we didn't, I've heard that interstellar space should be a bit denser environment then interior of our Sun's heliosphere, so perhaps if they are slowed down by friction, an accelerating craft (solar sailboat or RTG powered ion rocket engine) could eventually catch up with them and keep in their radio communication range?

Re:A trail of breadcrumbs (3, Interesting)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#41233531)

Odds are that they'll run out of fuel long before we lose communication and/or a relay craft could catch up enough to make a difference. They estimate about eight years left.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (1)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | about 2 years ago | (#41233567)

It would be nice to think that one day we'll reach a technological level that allows us to overtake Voyager 1. I'm not that hopeful though.

For me the Infinite Improbability Drive is a fact as we're only limited by our own imagination.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (4, Informative)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41233785)

It would be nice to think that one day we'll reach a technological level that allows us to overtake Voyager 1.

Keep in mind that with the small velocities that our probes are leaving the Earth with at the moment, a small change of initial velocity makes for a big change in asymptotic velocity as the craft flies through the shallow parts of the gravity well (i.e., when it is far away). That means that we can already do that today.

You don't even need to integrate any trajectory to find this out, that's simple physics the kind of which I was doing in high school. Just calculate the kinetic + potential energy balance of the Sun-Earth-spacecraft system. Just escaping the Sun means balancing the (negative) potential energy of the probe within Sun's gravity well. The balance is v_terminal^2*m*(1/2) = E_p + v_initial^2*m*(1/2), where E_p is negative, of course, and v_initial is the speed relative to the Sun after leaving the Earth ("leaving the Earth" meaning here "getting far away enough so that the remaining potential energy caused by the presence of Earth won't skew the results too much"). If v_initial is 42.1 kps, you'll end up with v_terminal = 0. You'll get that if you leave Earth with initial speed of 16.6 kps which you can calculate in a similar manner. Now as to the the deltas to initial velocity of 16.6 kps near Earth and respective final velocities relative to the Sun in the infinity:

extra 1 kps => 10.6

extra 2 kps => 15

extra 3 kps => 18.4

extra 4 kps => 21.2

There are diminishing returns, but you can overtake Voyager 1 by having extra 3 kps when leaving the Earth *at any time*. The reason Voyager 1 is so fast despite having left Earth at a very modest velocity are the four grav assists. Today, all you need is the same ion engine that Dawn has and you're well on the way much faster than any probe before.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41233889)

What the hell high school did you go to? The most they taught is my school is how to balance a check book and not everyone understood that...

Re:Always the frontrunner? (2)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 2 years ago | (#41234037)

Yeah, but that ~1kps difference needs to make up 10 billion km.

That's about 315 years. So your new probe has to last that long. At least.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (2)

mbone (558574) | about 2 years ago | (#41234511)

Well,V1 had only 2 gravity assists...

And, as I posted above, the Jupiter-Saturn dual gravity assists come up every 19.87 years - the next will be at the end of the decade.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41234029)

Overtaking it's possition really isn't a problem. It's a question of why you're send the probe. These probes were sent out to explore planets. Everything the did after that, what they're doing today, is gravy. But they needed a set amount of time at each planet to do their research correctly.
 
Now if we were sending a probe to a local star we could justify the probe going faster. We would have to since the closest planet is over 4 light years away and these probes aren't even a light day away after 35 years of travel. We're talking 10s of thousands of years for them to get to a distance equal that of the closest star.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (1)

mbone (558574) | about 2 years ago | (#41234727)

There was the TAU [aiaa.org] 1000 AU probe, which was to be sold on parallax measurements (i.e., astronomy). I didn't regard that as compelling.

More interesting are the suggestions of a probe to the solar gravitational lens focus [utexas.edu] , at 688.81 AU (or greater) (for light - it is less than that for gravitational waves or neutrinos, as they pass through the Sun, while light has to go around the Sun).

At that distance or greater, you could use the Sun as a telescope and greatly magnify any remote object at any frequency (and also for gravitational waves and neutrino's). Trouble is, it would be hard to point it at more than one or two targets (as you would have to move the spacecraft 11 AU / deg to do so). You could (I am sure) arrange a trajectory to get 2 or 3 or maybe even 4 objects over time, but that's not many objects for a multi-decade mission.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about 2 years ago | (#41234207)

Not likely. The voyagers have used the position of the planets (a bit like a slingshot, using those planet's gravity), which were extraordinarily good at the time of launch. It will take a few centuries or millennia before we hit such a good position again. Space travel is not a question of hitting the gas pedal as hard as possible.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (3, Interesting)

jj00 (599158) | about 2 years ago | (#41234235)

I've often thought about this, and while I don't know much about this stuff other than from a fan's perspective, I have always been curious why we don't send another Voyager-style craft into space every 10-20 years. Each craft could take advantage of improvements in our technology, and possibly be cheaper since it would be based on the same design. Each one could communicate back to the other instead of having to reach back to Earth on its own, kind of like a repeater. Also, if anything would go wrong with one of them, there would be another one not too far behind.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41234247)

Yes that's why the tortoise with a head start always stays ahead of the hare.

Re:Always the frontrunner? (1)

mbone (558574) | about 2 years ago | (#41234441)

I have tried to get some people at NASA Advanced Concepts interested in a voyage to Sedna [caltech.edu] (now near perihelion at ~ 89 AU). Sedna is especially interesting because of its orbit - there is a chance it is an interloper from another solar system [arxiv.org] . It's so far away that a trip in a reasonable time would require a higher velocity than Voyager.

Note, by the way, that the next double Jupiter - Saturn orbital assist would require Jupiter passage ~ 2018 and Saturn passage in ~ 2019. These only repeat every 19.87 years, so we better get to it. With a double gravity assist and ion propulsion, we could get to Sedna in a reasonable time.

hey! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41233331)

Where the bald headed girl at?

iPod (5, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#41233345)

"Each only has 68 kilobytes of computer memory. To put that in perspective, the smallest iPod — an 8-gigabyte iPod Nano — is 100,000 times more powerful."

So what you're saying is that if I upgrade my computer from a 500GB hard disk to a 2TB hard disk, it makes the entire computer 4 times more powerful?

Re:iPod (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41233679)

The article was written by not just a journalist, but by a woman. Just be glad that the math is semi-correct.

Re:iPod (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 2 years ago | (#41233819)

I think they're comparing RAM with solid state storage space, so it's even more nonsensical.

Re:iPod (1)

twistedcubic (577194) | about 2 years ago | (#41233823)

This is the best analogy I've ever seen.

Re:iPod (2)

jkflying (2190798) | about 2 years ago | (#41233893)

If hard drive space was your bottleneck - yes. Imagine if every time you tried to store more than 500GB you had to swap out to tape...

Sexy (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41233347)

slowly but steadily pushing through the heliosheath

Phwoar!

They just don't build 'em like they used to. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41233379)

35 years in space is a difficult thing to achieve, not to mention hideously expensive, but would it really be so hard for regular manufacturers to learn from this and just make normal consumer devices that last a bit longer than a two year warranty, say ten years or so? Now that most tech is fine as-is do we really have to obsolete everything once the next-big-thing comes out?

Re:They just don't build 'em like they used to. (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#41233489)

Depends on what compromises you are willing to accept, really...

One big killer in consumer electronics is that(if the state of the shelves is to be taken as indicative of what customers actually want) people apparently care more about devices being thin than about batteries being standardized, or replaceable at all... Barring a minor miracle on the Li-ion side, that provides a nice, hard, cap on the viable lifespan of most portables. It wouldn't be rocket surgery to standardize batteries(even if the AA is a bit old school, a standardized Li-ion rectangle could probably be CADed up in about 20 minutes and then entirely ignored by the industry at large); but there seems to be minimal interest in doing so.

Most of the rest would come down to either accepting component choices that are bad for BOM costs(ie. electrolytic capacitors are delightfully cheap for the performance they give; but they are born to die, doubly so in toasty environments, all solid caps is better, but costs rather more) or would constrain you to performance that is somewhat behind the curve(people run 130watt processors, with their demand for moving parts in the cooling system and tendency to cook their own smoothing caps, because they want something faster than a 1-10 watt processor can survive...)

Especially since it doesn't need to be rad-hard, you could probably build many contemporary consumer devices for a 35 year life span for not more than 2-3x the cost and a rather bulkier case; but good luck selling that...

Re:They just don't build 'em like they used to. (1)

ACS Solver (1068112) | about 2 years ago | (#41233849)

You seem to know what you're talking about, so I'll ask - what's your take on supercapacitors [wikipedia.org] ? Are the problems with them surmountable to the point where they could be expected to replace typical consumer batteries?

2020? (3, Interesting)

hamvil (1186283) | about 2 years ago | (#41233383)

In the article they say that Voyager has fuel until 2020. What is the fuel for? Communications? Or also for maneuvering? Which orbit will it follows after there is no more fuel?

Re:2020? (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#41233435)

It's nuclear powered, so I believe it's just enough fuel to maintain its current minimal levels of operation until 2020, after which it will be little more than a chunk of metal floating through space.

Re:2020? (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#41233519)

Communications, I believe. It is just going where its inertia takes it at this point, and heading out of the solar system. It is obviously still under the gravitational influence of bodies in the solar system(and all the other ones, as best we can tell); but it isn't on a path that would be described as an 'orbit' in anything like the usual use of the term.

Re:2020? (4, Informative)

mbone (558574) | about 2 years ago | (#41233687)

The two Voyagers are gyroscope stabilized, so they don't need fuel for attitude control.

They are powered by Plutonium 238 RTG's, and that power is steadily declining as the Plutonium decays and the thermocouples age. I think that is what the article is referring to. I wouldn't call them fuel.

Re:2020? (1)

ocularsinister (774024) | about 2 years ago | (#41234139)

I remember reading somewhere (National Geographic?) that they need to use some energy to keep the electronics warm enough to operate. Its probably still *very* cold in there, but the few milliwatts of heat provides just enough to stop the electronics packing up.

Re:2020? (4, Informative)

camperdave (969942) | about 2 years ago | (#41234259)

The fuel they speak of is hydrazine, and it is used for maneuvering; specifically for maintaining the orientation of the craft so that the antenna is pointed Earthward, and also to spin the craft about its axis periodically to recalibrate some of the sensors. The electronics are powered by three nuclear batteries, which are also expected to "run out" at about the same time. From Wikipedia:

Both spacecraft also have adequate electrical power and attitude control propellant to continue operating until around 2025, after which there may not be available electrical power to support science instrument operation. At that time, science data return and spacecraft operations will cease.

Re:2020? (1)

jschen (1249578) | about 2 years ago | (#41234323)

The power of the plutonium RTGs continually declining is one issue, as already noted. Another issue is the finite amount of hydrazine on board for what little maneuvering may need to be done. See the last paragraph of this page [nasa.gov] and this article [universetoday.com] .

Voyager 2 launched first? (2)

Comboman (895500) | about 2 years ago | (#41233385)

So Voyager 2 was launched weeks before Voyager 1? Was the launch schedule changed at the last minute?

Re:Voyager 2 launched first? (4, Funny)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 2 years ago | (#41233423)

George Lucas is to blame. He edited the order in Voyager: Special Edition.

Re:Voyager 2 launched first? (1)

Daetrin (576516) | about 2 years ago | (#41233437)

Not only that, but...

"Since the spacecraft are so far out, it takes 17 hours for a radio signal from Voyager 1 to travel to Earth. For Voyager 2, it takes about 13 hours."

So Voyager 2 launched before Voyager 1, but despite that (fairly trivial) headstart of a couple weeks, Voyager 1 has traveled almost 30% farther than Voyager 2. Clearly there's some kind of tortoise and hare thing going on here. Perhaps it's time to start reading wikipedia [wikipedia.org] :)

Re:Voyager 2 launched first? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41233443)

So Voyager 2 was launched weeks before Voyager 1? Was the launch schedule changed at the last minute?

No. Per this:

http://space.about.com/od/spaceexplorationhistory/p/voyager1.htm

"Voyager 1 was launched after Voyager 2, but because of a faster route, it exited the asteroid belt earlier than its twin. It began its Jovian imaging mission in April 1978 at a range of 265 million kilometers from the planet; images sent back by January the following year indicated that Jupiter's atmosphere was more turbulent than during the Pioneer flybys in 1973 and 1974."

Re:Voyager 2 launched first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41234717)

1. Construct two space vehicles.
2. Number them with #1 and #2.
3. Launch #2 *before* the #1.
4. Steer the late #1 so that it overtakes #2.
5. Lean back and observe the confusion when people try to figure out which one is "first".

Re:Voyager 2 launched first? (1)

mbone (558574) | about 2 years ago | (#41234797)

You left out

7. Profit !!!!

Some kind of dupe (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41233411)

Voyager seems to be "heading for the stars" once every six months:
- http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/06/15/0115226/new-signs-voyager-is-nearing-interstellar-space
- http://science.slashdot.org/story/12/04/14/012219/voyager-and-the-coming-great-hiatus-in-deep-space
- http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/12/07/2127247/voyager-1-exits-our-solar-system
- http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/04/28/2314203/voyager-set-to-enter-interstellar-space
- http://science.slashdot.org/story/10/12/14/1451216/voyager-1-beyond-solar-wind

Re:Some kind of dupe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41233503)

And funnily enough it won't be before very long that it starts getting closer to another star than it is from the one it is escaping from. So saying that it is "heading for the stars" is actually a bit wrong...

Re:Some kind of dupe (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#41233565)

Won't be very long? Voyager won't be near another star system for roughly 350,000 years. That's more than 30 times the length of recorded history.

Re:Some kind of dupe (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41233697)

Won't be very long? Voyager won't be near another star system for roughly 350,000 years. That's more than 30 times the length of recorded history.

That's wy the GP wrote: "it won't be before very long"...

Re:Some kind of dupe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41233541)

NASA designed this redundancy to retransmit in case we missed one of the earlier messages.

Re:Some kind of dupe (1)

Teresita (982888) | about 2 years ago | (#41233649)

Voyager seems to be "heading for the stars" once every six months

The Linux Desktop is headed for the stars. You'll see!

Re:Some kind of dupe (1)

mat.power (2677517) | about 2 years ago | (#41233757)

Thank you! This is something that has bothered me every time one of these news stories gets posted.

Re:Some kind of dupe (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#41233803)

Because the Solar system doesn't have a clearcut borderline, crossing the heliosphere takes time.

35 years form now (2)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#41233681)

35 years form now we won't have any similar legacy from what we are doing now.

Re:35 years form now (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41233719)

Because the evil democrat liberals gutted NASA and give our tax money to the welfare bums who refuse to work. Enjoy your new America all you slash fools that hate it.

Re:35 years form now (0)

asylumx (881307) | about 2 years ago | (#41233839)

Holy Trollie!

Re:35 years form now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41234071)

Plus the Republitards gave all the money to their buddies in banking & the military industrial complex.

Orders of magnitude more than welfare.

Re:35 years form now (1)

multipartmixed (163409) | about 2 years ago | (#41234289)

Yes, we will have the top 1% of the top 1% of 1% of income earners so far above the middle class that they will appear to have overtaken Voyager 1 by several lightyears.

NOT TO WORRY - KIRK FINDS IT !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41233755)

So it has been told and so it shall be !! Ahhhmmmm !!

Waiting for the astounded scientists. (3, Interesting)

Drethon (1445051) | about 2 years ago | (#41233809)

Every time we have a new way of viewing the universe it seems like scientists get results mildly or completely different from what they expect. I'm looking forward to the possibility of the data coming back from Voyager completely conflicting with expectations and resulting in new theories.

Re:Waiting for the astounded scientists. (1)

bazorg (911295) | about 2 years ago | (#41234087)

yes, like when Truman Burbank sailed into that wall....

Re:Waiting for the astounded scientists. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41234501)

And then went up the steps and out the door in the freakin' sky! ...not only that, "they" had cameras recording the event. Top that, v'ger!

Where are they now? (1)

Jawnn (445279) | about 2 years ago | (#41234085)

I though V....ger went off-line in 1998.

Why are our tax dollars funding this junk? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41234119)

For a government in a permanent recession and trying to spend its way out, why do we waste money on this stuff? It does not help anything economically, nor does it do anything about how our engines of commerce are shackled due to regulations bought and paid for by special interest. Lets play Star Trek when the nation isn't beholden to China (the #1 US creditor), and when we have an economic surplus. That doesn't mean printing more money either. Anyway, space exploration and such is the domain of the private sector.

I'm glad to be a Libertarian. Hopefully one of our candidates can stop wasteful spending on stuff like this, focus on core issues like dealing with government waste, and allowing business to thrive. Then, maybe we might see actual jobs again.

Re:Why are our tax dollars funding this junk? (2)

armanox (826486) | about 2 years ago | (#41234379)

Because science, that's why. Because it's useful, employs people, and leads us to a better understanding of the universe. Saying that science is wasting our money while ignoring the elephants in the room is insane.

Send More Chuck Berry! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41234217)

Ah the good old days.

18 billion kilometers? (1)

Skapare (16644) | about 2 years ago | (#41234701)

Isn't that like 18 trillion meters or something?

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