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Voyager 1, So Close To Interstellar Space That We Can Taste It!

Unknown Lamer posted about a year and a half ago | from the and-then-it-hits-the-wall dept.

NASA 271

mphall21 writes "Voyager 1 is nearing the edge of the 'magnetic highway' of our solar system and scientists believe this is the final area the space probe must cross before entering interstellar space. The Voyager team infers this region is still inside of our heliosphere because the direction of the magnetic field has not changed. The direction of this field is expected to change when Voyager goes into interstellar space. 'Although Voyager 1 still is inside the sun's environment, we now can taste what it's like on the outside because the particles are zipping in and out on this magnetic highway,' said Edward Stone, Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. 'We believe this is the last leg of our journey to interstellar space. Our best guess is it's likely just a few months to a couple years away. The new region isn't what we expected, but we've come to expect the unexpected from Voyager.' Moving at 10.5 miles per second, the space probe is the most distant man-made object from Earth. The space craft has been in operation for 35 years and receives regular commands and transmits data back to the Deep Space Network."

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For those of us alive when this was launched, (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42175803)

This is truly a triumph of modern science and unfortunately we do not dream big like this anymore. We are limited to our own backyard. The moon, Mars, etc. Such a shame.

Re:For those of us alive when this was launched, (5, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about a year and a half ago | (#42175841)

Well there is New Horizons.

Re:For those of us alive when this was launched, (5, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year and a half ago | (#42175911)

We don't dream this big anymore? Since Voyager left earth, we sequenced the human genome, along with the genomes of nearly 200 other organisms. The computer that lives in my pocket is so much better than the computers on board Voyager that I can't even figure out how to compare them. Granted, I only spent 5 minutes skimming wiki articles trying to do so, but I'll also point out that 5 minutes of research got me the name of all the units on board the voyager, and way too much information for me to handle on that. 5 minutes of research at Voyager's time would maybe result in "finding the right world book letter." And it wouldn't have that information.

Putting a big rocket and a nuclear power supply on something and sending it off into space is awe-inspiring, yes, but I'd argue we're dreaming much bigger today. The internet changed the world a lot more than the space age did.

(Note that I'm not knocking the space age, and am fully aware that it's unlikely the internet would have come about were it not for the space age.)

Re:For those of us alive when this was launched, (4, Interesting)

elashish14 (1302231) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176055)

Space age research is still alive and well too. GP's comment comes on the heels of this [slashdot.org] and this [slashdot.org] , not to mention that we're also seeing potential earths in other solar systems for the first time ever! plus at the same time learning even more about awesome our own home is.

Maybe the public at large is more concerned about which husband/wife the latest Kardashian is on, but the age of the geeks is accelerating far faster than any it ever has, and it will continue to do so as long as there is the tiniest of means.

And while we're on it, let's not forget that we're also thinking smaller than ever before. How long has it been since we isolated the Higgs Boson???

Re:For those of us alive when this was launched, (3, Interesting)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176435)

George W Bush tried to cancel [washingtonpost.com] these two programs. For a paltry savings of $4 million/yr.

And we're sadly looking back on him as 'enlightened'.

Re:For those of us alive when this was launched, (2, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176577)

Who looks back on Bush as enlightened? They didn't even invite him to the Republican national convention.

Re:For those of us alive when this was launched, (-1, Troll)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176843)

wait wait wait... lol... God you demopublicans will say whatever nonsense our party puts in your mouth wont you?

Bush tried to get NASA to go to the moon and mars... NASA, using probably their oldest fundraising gag, said "but wait, we'll need more money, guess we'll have to cancel (insert popular program here: Hubble/Voyager/Mars Rovers) unless we get more funding!" They, of course, didn't get anymore money, and yet still didn't cancel the program. They've threatened to shut down Hubble dozens of times.

Stop falling for political games. They're ALL lying to you. Especially your own party.

Re:For those of us alive when this was launched, (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176919)

> The computer that lives in my pocket is so much better than the computers on board Voyager..

I suspect the computer in your pocket won't still be working in 35 years.

Who's the "We" ? (4, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176015)

This is truly a triumph of modern science and unfortunately we do not dream big like this anymore. We are limited to our own backyard. The moon, Mars, etc. Such a shame.

If the "we" in question is NASA, your assertion is true.
 
However, if the "we" denotes the human race, nope, the dream is still on, and there are still people working towards achieving even greater goals.
 
People in Brazil, in Japan, in India, in China are working on projects that may take us (and the "us" here means human race) further.

Re:For those of us alive when this was launched, (5, Interesting)

gman003 (1693318) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176185)

We're spotting exoplanets faster than we can name them. We just landed a fucking nuclear-powered, laser-wielding science tank on Mars. Two years ago we dive-bombed the moon so we could search the debris cloud for signs of water. New Horizons is planned to leave the solar system as well once it's done with Pluto. We've got probes around Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Vesta, and whole damn fleets around the Moon and Mars, with another probe en route to Jupiter. We've got a company planning to mine the freaking asteroid belt. The ISS is constantly manned - I get Twitter pics *every* *day* from fucking *space*.

The hell we aren't dreaming big. The only reason Voyager is the only probe so far out is because it takes forty years to get there.

Re:For those of us alive when this was launched, (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176241)

Well put. Though I would be happy to throw in $5 or $10 more in tax dollars if it bought a purpose-built intersetllar probe. I want us to get to Alpha Centauri before I croak, god damnit!

Re:For those of us alive when this was launched, (1)

screwdriver (691980) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176481)

Forty years using technology that is forty years old. I wonder how long it would take with today's technology.

Re:For those of us alive when this was launched, (4, Insightful)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176649)

Thirty nine years.

Re:For those of us alive when this was launched, (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176699)

Forty years using technology that is forty years old. I wonder how long it would take with today's technology.

Well keep in mind we weren't trying to race for the edge of the solar system as fast as we could, in order to justify the cost of the program we had to do some observations on the way. I haven't checked lately, but depending on when we launch a probe and the alignment of various bodies used in gravity-assists, I'd assume that using the ion-drive technology we could get to the edge in a shorter amount of time and be moving at a higher velocity when we reach the heliopause.

Re:For those of us alive when this was launched, (2)

fred911 (83970) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176621)

"The only reason Voyager is the only probe so far out is because it takes forty years to get there."

ET..Phone home!!

Re:For those of us alive when this was launched, (5, Funny)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176475)

And you'll get to experience the end of the world on December 21st, caused by those same probes!

We never suspected that the heliosheath, the stars and deep space, all of it, was an illusion, caused by odd refractions at the edge of the bubble that we live in. As Voyager 1 approaches, and touches the threshold, it gives slightly, and then ... *pop*

All of existence unravels, and turns inside out briefly before collapsing, the unlikely self-sustaining equation finally solving itself for x.

Re:For those of us alive when this was launched, (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176999)

x = 42

Vger? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42175809)

And let me guess, the next thing Voyager will find once outside the solar system will be hot, bald, female aliens?

Which begs the question... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42175811)

What does interstellar space taste like?

Re:Which begs the question... (5, Funny)

ipquickly (1562169) | about a year and a half ago | (#42175925)

What does interstellar space taste like?

Bubbly, as the water boils of your tongue.

<insert "begs the question" troll> (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176695)

<specious prescriptivist argument against the new, common usage of the term>

<pointless hyperlink to echo chamber site in a failed attempt to bolster the argument>

<fallacious conclusion derived from presuming the argument and false nostalgia for a nonexistent past when the general populace understood the petitio principii fallacy>

There. Hope this curbs the inevitable trolling.

Re:Which begs the question... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176925)

In space, noone can smell you stink.

Re:Which begs the question... (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | about a year and a half ago | (#42177047)

Tasty Wheat.

When does it become V-GER? (5, Funny)

p51d007 (656414) | about a year and a half ago | (#42175813)

I was 17 when this thing launched...remember it well, all the hoop-de-doo about that gold disk. Either the Klingons will get it, or maybe the Borg?

Re:When does it become V-GER? (5, Funny)

ipquickly (1562169) | about a year and a half ago | (#42175935)

I was 17 when this thing launched...remember it well, all the hoop-de-doo about that gold disk.
Either the Klingons will get it, or maybe the Borg?

Cmon, it's GOLD. The Ferengi will get it before anyone else even notices.

Re:When does it become V-GER? (5, Funny)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176049)

No Ferengi would bother with it. They don't care about gold, merely the latinum that gold can act as an enclosure for.

Re:When does it become V-GER? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176073)

AND the above is WHY we don't dream big anymore.

One of the greatest achievements of technology to talk about and all we can do is compare it to a tv show and outdated movie from almost decade ago. And this will happen every time we bring it up.

We deserve the future we get.

Re:When does it become V-GER? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176129)

I seem to recall the Klingons destroying this thing in #5, though I don't recall if it showed the designation, I just assume it was Voyager 1. V-GER was Voyager 6, which doesn't exist and hasn't been launched (yet.)

Re:When does it become V-GER? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176183)

No, Klaa blew up one of the Pioneer probes. According to the script notes it was Pioneer 10. Of course, how that flew into Klingon space to begin with is beyond me, given how far they are supposed to be from us.

Re:When does it become V-GER? (1)

I_am_Jack (1116205) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176401)

Which apparently, in your case, is a future without humor.

Re:When does it become V-GER? (5, Informative)

ipquickly (1562169) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176539)

AND the above is WHY we don't dream big anymore.

One of the greatest achievements of technology to talk about and all we can do is compare it to a tv show and outdated movie from almost decade ago. And this will happen every time we bring it up.

We deserve the future we get.

You're kidding, right?

Here from Wikipedia: [wikipedia.org]

Cultural influence of Star Trek

"Many scientists and engineers claim that their professional and life choices were influenced by Star Trek. The inventor of the first non-vehicular cell phone, Martin Cooper, states he was motivated to develop it from watching Star Trek."

or from The Guardian [guardian.co.uk] :

Star Trek technology: how 21st century scientists are making it so

"Many have been inspired by Star Trek to become scientists, and some are starting to make its gadgetry a reality"

I'm certain Star Trek was one of the top reasons many of the engineers at NASA became interested in engineering in the first place.

Re:When does it become V-GER? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176735)

Don't forget the Ion Thruster. Laughed at by many when it was featured on the show, then some scientists said "hey wait a minute, that might actually work." And holy shit, it works pretty well, even though it's certainly not as flashy as the ones in the show.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Space_1

Re:When does it become V-GER? (1)

dadelbunts (1727498) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176867)

and warp drives

Littering (3, Funny)

ipquickly (1562169) | about a year and a half ago | (#42175823)

We have enough trouble littering and leaving our useless garbage behind here on Earth. Now we are also littering in inter-stellar space.
Do you know how freaking big the ticket for this will be?

Re:Littering (2)

Scutter (18425) | about a year and a half ago | (#42175843)

Voyager is moving at 10.5 miles per second. They gotta catch it first.

Re:Littering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176003)

10.5miles per second is weak... We should have a real 'space race' where were can see who can build the fastest man made object. The speed at 5year increments would be used to guage winners at each interval. We could probably easily surpass 10.5miles per second -- use chem rockets and head directly toward the sun, gravity assist around and head back out to the planets fueled by ion engines and gravity assist some more around -- would be pretty neat to track and see. We probably be able to catch up and surpass Voyager in the remainder of my lifetime too if you're smart about the course.

Re:Littering (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176057)

I'd expect that to be a trivial accomplishment if they are advanced enough to accomplish interstellar travel.

Re:Littering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176223)

Why? We're about to accomplish interstellar travel, and I'd bet my pants that we couldn't catch an object moving that fast without breaking it.

Re:Littering (4, Informative)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176563)

no... we're about to accomplish extra-solar travel. Interstellar travel would actually entail reaching another star.

Re:Littering (3, Funny)

rubycodez (864176) | about a year and a half ago | (#42175923)

that is a nonsensical point of view, the universe is mostly filled with litter. Metal asteroids and hydrocarbons and dirty ice balls, the amount of cubic miles of that in our own solar system alone is beyond human comprehension, Man's pollution on a cosmic scale is essentially zero, the universe is already pre-polluted

Re:Littering (4, Funny)

martinX (672498) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176081)

And then I got a call from officer Obie-Wan. He said, "Kid, we found your name on a space probe at the bottom of a half a gigaton of
garbage, and just wanted to know if you had any information about it." And I said, "Yes, sir, Officer Obie-Wan, I cannot tell a lie, I put that space probe
under that garbage."

Re:Littering (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176243)

*golf clap*

Re:Littering (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176339)

Amazing work, R-Lo D2.

voids are hugely repulsive (5, Interesting)

epine (68316) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176827)

Man's pollution on a cosmic scale is essentially zero, the universe is already pre-polluted

The average density of the universe is about one proton per cubic meter. The vast majority of the visible universe is pristine vacuum. Plus, nearly every galaxy holds at its core a matter-disposal rip-heap of eternal safe-keeping.

Bear in mind that we now know there's a very small leak into the surrounding environment at around 60 nano-kelvin (*). Before we route too much of our crap to the galactic disposal unit, perhaps we should learn from our mistakes on the slimy blue marble and perform a rigorous environmental impact study on anthropogenic black-hole warming, just in case bumping it up to 61 nano-kelvins triggers a dark matter landslide. (By the "it's all about us, every time, and in every way" anthropic principle, every bulk coefficient of our local environment is fluttering around a precarious and exquisitely tuned value optimal to survival as we presently know it.)

(*) For simplicity I use the Hawking temperature for a solar mass black hole. From the equation at Wikipedia, this appears to scale inversely with mass. Possibly the right temperature involves division by another factor of 4 million to account for the correct mass of the galactic darth Timbit (local idiom for doughnut hole). I'm getting 15 femto-kelvins without a napkin. Let's not be brash and mess with this number anthropogenically without really thinking things through, to solve some minor problem with space-based pollution in some gossamer filigree of the pristine vacuum.

One would think it might be easier just to toss our junk in the direction of the Local Void [wikipedia.org] . This, however, amounts to carting your garbage uphill.

Wikipedia: The Milky Way's velocity away from the Local Void is 270 kilometres per second (600,000 mph). Voids are hugely repulsive.

Re:Littering (4, Funny)

bmo (77928) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176085)

> Now we are also littering in inter-stellar space.
>Do you know how freaking big the ticket for this will be?

Arlo Guthrie might even make a song about it.

--
BMO

Re:Littering (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year and a half ago | (#42177019)

Forget about littering. What if it hits and damages something important to someone? Like kids hurling a sports ball through the neighbor's window?

An enraged alien will show up on Earth, with the Voyager in its hands, and interrogate us with, "Is this your probe that went through my living room window . . . ?"

Then we'll be in for some bad shit.

It's sad.... (2, Insightful)

Rick Zeman (15628) | about a year and a half ago | (#42175845)

...stories like this just emphasize the major suckitude of the current US space policy in that our current glory is tech from 30 years in the past. What'll we be talking about 30 years in the future?

Re:It's sad.... (4, Funny)

Bill Currie (487) | about a year and a half ago | (#42175863)

Angry Birds and Minecraft, I imagine. :/

Re:It's sad.... (3, Funny)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176287)

Angry Birds seem to sponsor all sorts of things, why not space exploration?

An Angry Bird shaped vessel hurtling out of the solar system would be awesome though I guess we'd have to hope that aliens aren't green and porcine lest they get the wrong idea.

Re:It's sad.... (1)

mister2au (1707664) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176469)

Now I am stuck with the image in my mind of a giant slingshot strung from Earth to the Moon !!

Re:It's sad.... (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year and a half ago | (#42175915)

Probably how Voyager is in the void of interstellar space and will be thousands of years before it reaches another solar system.

Re:It's sad.... (4, Insightful)

cmorriss (471077) | about a year and a half ago | (#42175953)

How about the probes we have zipping around all over the solar system? Messenger is collecting tons of information about Mercury. Of course, our information on Mars is growing by leaps and bounds by the month and we have a probe on its way to Pluto due to arrive in a few years.

All done by NASA. The U.S. space program has continued to do great science since Voyager was launched and will continue into the future. Name another country that's even close.

Re:It's sad.... (3, Interesting)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176625)

All done by NASA

To be fair, ESA (European S.A.) has also a few probes here and there, like Mars / Venus Express. But to be fair, NASA has always been very passionated about what they do and are very keen to share what they found. There are amazing apps about the various probes, where they are, their status, pictures they took etc... invaluable stuff for someone interested in astronomy/physics/more-than-the-ordinary.

not said, active space program (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176035)

we have kepler, new horizons, mercury messenger, probes on and around Mars, private DragonX craft going to the IIS

Re:It's sad.... (1)

OhANameWhatName (2688401) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176301)

What'll we be talking about 30 years in the future?

The glories of the tech from 60 years in the past

Space Frogger (2)

IonOtter (629215) | about a year and a half ago | (#42175855)

BEEP-BEEEE*squish*EEEeeeeep!

The don't make 'em like they used to (3, Interesting)

a_hanso (1891616) | about a year and a half ago | (#42175941)

35 years and still running (I had a 25 year old Toyota which did the same). What happened to us engineers? Where did we go wrong?

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42175965)

If the car lasts 25 years, YOU'RE NOT BUYING ANOTHER ONE. How can we make more money if nobody is buying a 2nd or a 63rd?

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (1)

mosherkl (1251628) | about a year and a half ago | (#42175975)

Planned obsolescence. Why make something last when they can make you buy a new one?

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176029)

Bullshit. We got better at optimizing. If the design life is 5 years and kit lasts 9, you clearly overdeaigned it.

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (1)

mirix (1649853) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176231)

"Value engineering". Ostensibly to reduce cost from not over-engineering things, and still run it's planned lifetime... which could be true, but often isn't. A lot of goods I see weren't engineered at all.

Well... I guess muntzing an old western design and mass-producing it is a kind of engineering, but not a good one...

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (4, Insightful)

pokoteng (2729771) | about a year and a half ago | (#42175989)

What happened to us engineers? Where did we go wrong?

We started listening to business requirements and started engineering for products that had x year lifespan which happens to be much shorter than older machines.

Given funding, we can probably make extraordinary machines now that can last for a millennia. We just don't because of cost and customer requirements to constantly upgrade to next new thing and dump the old with lesser features and looks.

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (2)

icebraining (1313345) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176873)

A team is trying to make one to last ten millennia [10000yearclock.net] .

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (1)

shentino (1139071) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176053)

We got vetoed by marketing droids.

Remember that MS crapware is sold to PHBs who then force it on IT.

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176163)

How can your 25 year old Toyota run for 35 years?

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176229)

It runs on hyperbole.

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (1)

4wdloop (1031398) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176259)

Relativity?

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (1)

Trep (366) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176215)

Well...Voyager probably hasn't encountered any potholes...that's got to help.

It is impressive though.

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176609)

yea its just running though deep space is all

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176221)

What happened to us engineers?

"Professional Management"

Also, the VC's know that firing the founder is the best way to riches. See: Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Amazon, WalMart, etc.

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (2)

circletimessquare (444983) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176233)

It didn't make it past 15 years of operation

The Zwurg captured it, crushed it, and have been spoofing empty space readings back to us to hide the fact we are inside a giant experimental sphere.

Where voyager would be right now is actually solid lead.

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (2)

readin (838620) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176263)

I'm not sure whether this applies to spacecraft or not, but when it comes to old structures, particularly bridges, roads and buildings that are hundreds or thousands of years old, it might be that the engineers simply didn't know how to safely reduce costs while ensuring the item built didn't collapse in their lifetime. Put yourself in the place of an engineer who is figuring out how much stone you have to use and how long it will take to build. You really don't have any idea since there's no such thing as materials science yet. You do know that if you ask for too much time and labor your boss/king/pharoah/ceasar will be very annoyed, but if you ask for too little and the thing collapses on some people you'll end up paying with your life. So the tendency would be to engineer something that just won't fall down - ever.

And then theirs the natural selection thing - the ancient buildings and bridges we see today are the ones that lasted, not the ones that collapsed early.

What happened to engineers....? (1)

tanveer1979 (530624) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176415)

They all did MBA :D

Re:What happened to engineers....? (1)

a_hanso (1891616) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176515)

They all did MBA :D

This is why I refuse to get one. I do read a lot of business books and periodicals and I'm often involved in management. But I steer clear of anything with the words "strategic", "marketing", "smarter-not-harder", "S.M.A.R.T goals", "empowerment" etc.

Maybe this is just unique to my industry or my circumstance, but in many ways, when you start thinking like management, you're compromising some of your professional integrity as an engineer. I prefer to get managers to think like engineers instead...

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176417)

If you really are an engineer you should know that engineers are just the executing part (workers). They get the design from designers and have no way to change that.

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (2)

the gnat (153162) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176545)

35 years and still running (I had a 25 year old Toyota which did the same). What happened to us engineers? Where did we go wrong?

Spirit lasted six years on Mars; Opportunity is nine years and counting. That's a minimum of six years spent rolling around in the sand on a planet with nighttime temperatures well below freezing, without any maintenance. And NASA built two of them. Granted, that was ten years ago, but Curiosity is doing pretty well so far.

There's no reason why engineers, American, Japanese, or otherwise, can't build something that will last for decades under hellish conditions, if affordability is less important than durability. And they build stuff like this all the time - it's just that most consumer products (especially electronics) are relative crap, because there's no incentive for them to last forever. Who actually cares if your phone or DVD player breaks after a few years? There are also cases where it's stupid just on practical grounds to keep something around for 35 years - there certainly are computers that have lasted that long, but we usually discard computer equipment long before it stops working, simply because it's more efficient to replace it with something much faster that probably costs and weighs less too. An interplanetary probe is built to somewhat different specifications.

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176915)

A guy at a plant in NC I was working last year commented about my set of Allen (hex) keys which didnt have 'Made in China' printed on it but was of real good quality. Of course it probably cost twice as much but I got now 22 years service out of it. I got it as an apprentice as part of a small set of personal tools needed for my then profession (electrician). Nowadays its not in daily use anymore but just sits in my laptop case (along with a screwdriver and a small wire cutter) for the odd occasions I need em. It looks a bit worn but this is just the surface. The keys are in perfect condition. One was missing at some point in time and got replaced with another.

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176953)

So you had a 25 year old Toyota which was running 35 years?

If you really approach relativistic velocities, you have some serious speeding issues.

Re:The don't make 'em like they used to (1)

XiaoMing (1574363) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176963)

35 years and still running (I had a 25 year old Toyota which did the same). What happened to us engineers? Where did we go wrong?

As much as I'd like to fogey things up and chalk it up to bean-counters and cost-cutting... Honestly, great technology is what happened (and keeps happening).

Building something to last is pointless when something twice as good/fast/efficient/what-have-you comes along sooner (and at the same or lower price) than the half-life that your product was designed for.

This obviously isn't the case for things like clothing or watches or automobiles (or industrial-grade anything), but the tau=1/e of consumer-grade technology is just too ridiculous sometimes for the "ol'-fashioned" way of doing things.

The story that never dies (4, Insightful)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#42175987)

Remember years ago when it was first announced that Voyager was entering interstellar space? There was another announcement a year or two ago and now they are saying it's really really close. When I was growing up NASA was considered the most reliable department the government had. After all the budget cuts they've been so starved for big announcements they keep jumping the gun. I know this wasn't out of NASA but it's still a NASA project. The real news in the last week was Mercury but it got buried under higher profile non stories. It just breaks my heart to see this. If they want news releases give us more rover stories! We've got two functional rovers again on Mars and the older one gets no attention and the new one has been all but forgotten. I've seen some stunning images because I cruise geek sites but the general public sees nothing. NASA has got to get better at playing the press game. People still support Mars exploration but look at the ISS as the poster child for press boondoggles. It's been treated more like a secret military project in the press. It's been fully functional for years but other than stories about possibly abandoning it which started weeks after it was completed when is the last time the regular press had a story about what was actually going on in the space station itself, I'm not talking resupply missions. I'll bet the average person couldn't name a single accomplishment or even test run on the space station. I'd bet most people have completely forgotten about it. What's the point of all the science if no one ever hears about it??? Botched press releases and dead silence is slowly killing NASA.

Re:The story that never dies (3, Insightful)

ipquickly (1562169) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176135)

I was about to make a joke about space expanding, but you raise quite a few valid points.
If we don't make science "cool" and find ways to get younger generations interested in research and exploration we will be eclipsed by cultures and countries which will find themselves venturing out into space for the first time. They have all our research and experience - as our endeavors are well documented. To this they will add their own technologies and experience. Information might not flow both ways, leaving us at a severe disadvantage.

By funding science and exploration we are funding our future. Our children are our future and we are leaving them at a disadvantage.

Re:The story that never dies (3, Interesting)

a_hanso (1891616) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176529)

Funny. I was about to make a joke about Zeno's Paradox.

Re:The story that never dies (3, Insightful)

SecurityTheatre (2427858) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176405)

To be fair, the NASA press releases are usually pretty accurate.

They did announce that they confirmed entering the heliosheath a few years ago. They confirmed to have crossed the Heliopause last year.

Now the journalists who write these articles write them as "Voyager entering interstellar space", which isn't entirely inaccurate, since it's a pretty vague concept.

At least it's still working, and generating discussion...

Re:The story that never dies (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176837)

I suppose that it's maybe a little over your head, but part of the reason for the confusion is that we've never been to interstellar space before so they were not all that sure when they were going to make that transition. They've found the sun's influence reaches farther than they expected. I kinda thought that was part of the excitement of discovery, exploring things that we haven't ever encountered before, but I guess some people aren't satisfied with that.

YtOU fAIL IT! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42175993)

Tonight (2)

koan (80826) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176025)

I will think a little thought for lonely Voyager.

Re:Tonight (1)

a_hanso (1891616) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176535)

I will think a little thought for lonely Voyager.

xkcd stick-man, is that you?

"...taste it..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176031)

And just what could the void taste like?

Delta Quadrant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176123)

So, when's it getting back?

We better start (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176131)

Killing the whales now.

America was king in the 60s and 70s (-1, Offtopic)

blanchae (965013) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176139)

IN the 60s and 70s, America was leading the world in space, the aero industries, cars, electronics, telecommunications and manufacturing. Now it is leading the world in its war effort and the false economy based on supplying wars to boost the economy. The biggests mistake that America made was "free-trade" and dropping their tarifs and duties. Countries like China keep their currency artificially low so that they can undercut American businesses with prices that cannot be beat. It has forced many industries to die a slow death. How can you compete with goods that are selling for 1/4 of the cost that it requires just for an American business to make it? You want to pump up the economy, bring back the duties and tarifs that protected America. America is in an economic war with China and is losing the battle. China is slowly driving America bankrupt. Who needs the biggest army when you can drain the economy.

Re:America was king in the 60s and 70s (1)

OhANameWhatName (2688401) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176311)

The biggests mistake that America made was "free-trade" and dropping their tarifs and duties

The degredation of fundamental education was clearly a far bigger mistake.

Re:America was king in the 60s and 70s (3, Interesting)

KingMotley (944240) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176325)

The biggests mistake that America made was "free-trade" and dropping their tarifs and duties.

It is only a mistake if you are trying to keep one country on top of all the others. Free-trade has made the WORLD a better place, at the expense of the USA. Now it's up to you to decide if that is a good or bad thing.

Re:America was king in the 60s and 70s (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176627)

yea the 60's and 70's didnt have war ... just that little skirmish ... what was it called

oh yea, the Vietnam war

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

How can china make shit 1/4 the cost, it catches fire retard

what if it was manned (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176165)

imagine a human being
traveling. through. outer space for 35 years.

Again? (2)

Sperbels (1008585) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176203)

Well, it's been close to entering interstellar space for the last 10 - 15 years. Are they just going to keep re-releasing this story every year?

Re:Again? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42176299)

NASA today announced they have hired the writers from LOST to write upcoming press releases.

No seriously I love to think about Voyager. Out there longer than I've been alive, visiting most of our planets, now going interstellar. I like hearing these little stories, that she is still alive and kicking. Theres all that stuff, the record, the plate. You know, when serious scientists like Carl sat around smoked a joint and thought what should we put on it if aliens find it in 100,000 years from now.

  There is no clear barrier where interstellar starts. Its basically there now. But what happens then? They turn it off? There is no more news to report.

  I look forward to launching Voyager 3 and 4 in 2151 and 2152.

Re:Again? (2)

niktemadur (793971) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176383)

Each year Voyager seems to reach a new marker, but every time the news is announced with the same backstory every time, so it can feel repetitive.
About 10 years ago it was reaching a fluctuation in the solar wind, wasn't it?
Then it was confirmed that it was on the outer edge of the heliosheath, where the solar wind turns sideways to fall back in.
Now it's interstellar particles moving freely.

Still receiving commands? (4, Funny)

waynemcdougall (631415) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176897)

What sort of commands are we sending?

"Keep going"
"Just keep going"
"Don't turn around and come back"
"Just a little bit further - just keep going"
"Nearly there - keep going"

The Gripes of Wrath (5, Insightful)

XiaoMing (1574363) | about a year and a half ago | (#42176989)

What's with all the complaints? How is this not news for nerds?

We thought the heliosphere should have ended earlier. It (surprisingly, without sarcasm) hasn't. It's explained within the same summary what the expected metrics for such a boundary should be (a change in the direction of the magnetic field), as well as a quantification of the closeness (that extra-solar particles are making forays into Voyager's sensors) of said boundary.

Add a dash of the fact that we are able to communicate through outer space with four-decades old technology, and I'm really not seeing what there is to bitch about.

Oh and the Mars rover? Yeah it's still being analyzed whether the "complex hydrocarbons" are actually organic compounds, just like how it was still being analyzed whether the timing glitch in the LHC was a violation of general relativity. That is speculation, it's not news (at least not for nerds).

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