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New Theory About the Source of Pioneer Space Probe Deceleration

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the solving-a-mystery dept.

NASA 156

First time accepted submitter deathcow writes "After forty years, a fresh perspective on old Pioneer data leads to new conclusions as to why the Pioneer probes are decelerating. Many theories to the slowing probes have persisted over the years — was it gravity? some type of unforeseen radiation? dark matter? Thanks to the data backup preservation efforts of a NASA Ames Research engineer, mountains of old telemetry data were still available for studying this curious anomaly."

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APK - Sex tip #35 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42212865)

Make a ring with your thumb and forefinger, and keep it close to your lips as you move up and down his shaft.

APK

TL;DR (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42213029)

There was a lot of repeats in the article, but ultimately, it was NASA's datadump that had slowed down both the spacecrafts.

Imagine the energy used to extract data from old tapes - all those excess heat generated definitely slowed down the spacecrafts.

Not to mentioned the carbon footprint generated !!

Re:APK - Sex tip #35 (4, Funny)

gagol (583737) | about 2 years ago | (#42213271)

My money is on interstellar photo radar.

Article too long, let me save you some time (5, Informative)

Press2ToContinue (2424598) | about 2 years ago | (#42212869)

It's thermal recall force from heat generated by components on Pioneer.

The article is way too long but here's the essential paragraph:

"we estimated the magnitude of the thermal recoil force at different times over the course of the Pioneer missions. After matching the model to the Pioneers’ temperature and electrical readings, we found that the spacecraft did experience a sizable thermal recoil force, corresponding to an excess of about 60 W even after 20 years in deep space. The magnitude of the force was still tiny by Earth standards—about the same as the backward push your car experiences in reaction to the photons spit out by its high-beam headlights. The team found that a good half of the force came from heat from the RTGs (radioisotope thermoelectric generators), which bounced off the back of the spacecraft antenna. The other half came from electrical heat from circuitry in the heart of the spacecraft"

There, you may resume.

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42212923)

Thanks a lot!

Thermal force (5, Interesting)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 2 years ago | (#42214851)

It's thermal recall force from heat generated by components on Pioneer.

Right. and the headline is a little misleading, it's a "new" explanation only if you weren't following; since it was announced in late 2010. The "anomaly" is solved.

Popular Science article about Toth and Turyshev's work here: http://www.popsci.com/pioneeranomaly [popsci.com]

More detailed calculations supporting the explanation:
Phys Rev Letters paper by Toth and Turyshev here: http://prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v108/i24/e241101 [aps.org]
ArXIV paper confirming the work with more details: http://arxiv.org/abs/1103.5222v1 [arxiv.org]

JPL press release: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-209&cid=release_2012-209&msource=12209 [nasa.gov]
Centauri Dreams article: http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=23720 [centauri-dreams.org]

Still, it's a nice article to read about how the work is done.

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42212939)

... wasn't this already determined, around a year ago?

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (1)

prefec2 (875483) | about 2 years ago | (#42213417)

I thought so too. Someone must have a very, very short memory. Or non at all.

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (3, Insightful)

skids (119237) | about 2 years ago | (#42215127)

Actually it turns out we have a very long memory. We remembered gigabytes of data for several decades, as well as enough data about a machine we built decades ago to model it in excruciating detail, then used it to refine the calculations for a possible explanation for a miniscule discrepency in the speed of a relatively tiny object billions of miles away. I'd say that's pretty incredible.

Meanwhile most people can't figure out how to remember a secure password. How's that for contrast?

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42213469)

... wasn't this already determined, around a year ago?

Well not positively determined, the new analysis of the data does a better job of confirming it. So yes, as usual the summary is horribly wrong- it's a better proof of an existing theory, not a new theory.

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214587)

im more surprised that this wasnt foreseen in the beginning and even more that its only now been discovered, but not that surprised. unfortunately

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 2 years ago | (#42213523)

Definitely old news, at least a few months old. Nothing new to see here...

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214615)

a few decades old to some I think.. not enough though apparently

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42212955)

No kidding. About two pages in I was crying "abstract please!"

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (5, Insightful)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 2 years ago | (#42213005)

The most impressive thing is that we can actually measure this minute effect to such an accuracy that we know there is something unexpected going on. And then subsequently accurately explain this inaccuracy.

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (4, Interesting)

bostonsysadmin (2776707) | about 2 years ago | (#42213207)

Seriously... it is just so laughably insane. If you were to tell someone from even just the 1940s that we would have an object doing this and that we could measure its progress to an incredible degree of precision, they would laugh at you and think that you were insane. Seriously... how is there still religion in this world? JFC... wake up already.

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (1, Flamebait)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 2 years ago | (#42213335)

Hey, this is support for religion, particularly the intellectual design theory!

After all it must be some God or whatever that has designed the universe to such perfection that we can shoot stuff in space, and by the time it's out of our solar system can say "hey it's not where we expect it to be, it's a few meters off. Oh wait a moment, we forgot to account for some photons.".

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42213373)

Err, if JFC woke up already, I think we'd be pretty safe in keeping that religion going :-)

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | about 2 years ago | (#42213575)

Excuse me, Jesus Fried Chicken is a trademark of mine.

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214165)

Firstly, this is an accumulated effect over several decades, not something we measured minute-by-minute.
Secondly, your personal opinion of God is just as irrelevant as any other believer's opinion out there. If you want to kill your intuition with logic short-circuitry, be my guest, but the rest of us happen to live happily with both the mystical and the mundane.

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (3, Informative)

klapaucjusz (1167407) | about 2 years ago | (#42214701)

The most impressive thing is that we can actually measure this minute effect

According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] , it's 8.74×10^10 m/s^2. If you integrate that over fourty years [wolframalpha.com] , that's 17000 km, or 55 ms light-speed delay, which should not be too difficult to detect.

--jch

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (4, Funny)

Joce640k (829181) | about 2 years ago | (#42213125)

The article is way too long.

No kidding...and written like one of those awful Dan Brown novels... ("we'll tell you in the next paragraph, honest!")

Nah (4, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about 2 years ago | (#42213383)

Your attention span just... never mind, he wandered off.

This is science kid, leave it for people who can read a full paragraph without needing a red bull. For once the article tells the complete story instead of being some butchered blog summary of a blog summary of a tweet of a snippet and the kiddies are up in arms because they actually have to use the reading skills they never mastered.

Re:Nah (5, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | about 2 years ago | (#42213459)

This is science kid...

Which is exactly why it shouldn't be written like a suspense novel.

Quick summary for all the people who know the background, full story underneath for those who don't (or just like to re-read it...)

Re:Nah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214129)

If you want an abstract, read the original paper [aps.org] . It's linked from the article. Unfortunately the paper itself is behind a paywall :-(

Some people will probably complain that it is "too technical" or relies too much on looking up previous papers to understand the background story.

Re:Nah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214179)

Wrong. The article is on the IEEE site, it is written exactly as it should be for their readers. If you want it dumbed down, wait for an aggregation service to rewrite it for you.

Re:Nah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214223)

I know, right? If only someplace like /. would pick it up.

Re:Nah (3, Insightful)

PPalmgren (1009823) | about 2 years ago | (#42214883)

I dunno, there's actually a benefit to this kind of approach. A public facing article, intended for the public, not just the 1% of us who love and understand science. I remember reading things like this as a kid and re-living the history of an event, feeling the experience of the scientist and their jubilation as they worked through a problem and found their answers. Science written in the form of a suspense novel brings people into the fray that would have otherwise ignored it. I'm all for it.

Re:Nah (3, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#42214973)

It's an article in IEEE Spectrum. Spectrum is a magazine that covers things that might be interesting to electrical engineers. Often those things are background stories on papers published in IEEE journals.

If you want the science, read the paper (or the abstract if you've got attention span problems). The Spectrum article was the right thing for a Slashdot summary to link to. Especially since it's a dupe of a previous Slashdot story that DID just cover the nitty gritty.

Re:Nah (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42213485)

This is science kid, leave it for people who can read a full paragraph without needing a red bull.

Err no. Science starts by giving you a brief summary of the theory and conclusions, then proceeds to get into the details. We call it an Abstract. This is a fluff piece which should have been titled "Thermal radiation theory confirmed as source of Pioneer slowdown". Most of the space is spent rambling on about the history of the mission and very little about the methods used to determine the results.

Re:Nah (1)

necro81 (917438) | about 2 years ago | (#42214677)

This is science kid, leave it for people who can read a full paragraph without needing a red bull.

Err no.... This is a fluff piece....

IEEE Spectrum is not a science journal, per se, it is a (free) general interest publication from a professional organization. It's Popular Science, actually well researched and written, without unfounded hype about The Next Big Thing. Most importantly, it has with significant technical content (not dumbed down or spoon-fed) that's accessible to the curious, without first requiring a PhD in that particular field. IEEE also publishes over 150 journals with hard core articles, if all that matters to you are the details.

Re:Nah (2)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about 2 years ago | (#42214859)

Science starts by giving you a brief summary of the theory and conclusions, then proceeds to get into the details. We call it an Abstract.

That's how a scientific paper is written. Scientific papers are not science, they are part of the output of science.

Science is a process. This article describes the process that went into one scientific discovery. It includes details about that process, such as the story of how the data was preserved, that would not usually go into a scientific paper. What you call "rambling on about the history of the mission" -- that's the tale of science, bub.

Re:Nah (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | about 2 years ago | (#42213587)

Those paragraphs are easier to read after a Red Bull though.

Red Bull gives you wings!

Re:Nah (1)

deroby (568773) | about 2 years ago | (#42213725)

It probably would help a lot more of Red Bull gave me glasses...

Re:Nah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214017)

> Red Bull gives you wings!

Not to mention an increased risk of heart disease [dailymail.co.uk] .

Re:Nah (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about 2 years ago | (#42214143)

Daily Mail Headline Generation

1. Spin wheel of nouns
2. Spin wheel of negative effects
3. Apply template '[noun] increases risk of [effect]
4. Print
5. Profit!

Re:Nah (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about 2 years ago | (#42214395)

This is Slash Dot you could post the Mona Lisa (La Gioconda) and someone would complain about the smile.... Hang on Hang on did I just refer to the Mona Lisa on a thread that's going a bit Dan Brown???

That's it I need a holiday!!!!

Re:Nah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214583)

This is Slash Dot you could post the Mona Lisa (La Gioconda) and someone would complain about the smile....

To be fair the smile is pretty lame. The smile of Lenna is better.

Re:Nah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42215133)

GET OFF MY LAWN, you young whippersnappers!

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (4, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | about 2 years ago | (#42213135)

The article is about the importance of retaining your original scientific data, rather than saying "we've analyzed it and now we're done with it forever."

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (1, Troll)

Hal_Porter (817932) | about 2 years ago | (#42213601)

There's a big difference between the scientists who discover things like this and people like Hansen, even if both get paid by NASA.

Hansen thinks he already knows the truth and goes out to find more evidence for it. These guys know they don't know.

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42213139)

about the same as the backward push your car experiences in reaction to the photons spit out by its high-beam headlights.

Damn, I'm gonna start driving without my headlights on to get better gas mileage!

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (5, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | about 2 years ago | (#42213189)

Keep them on and drive backwards.

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (1)

NardoPolo88 (1417637) | about 2 years ago | (#42214469)

But then we'd have to worry about the photons from our tail lights. No, I think the answer here it to also put headlights on the back of the car to equalize the forces.

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (1)

JustOK (667959) | about 2 years ago | (#42214857)

Tail lights are red-shifted which indicates you are receding from the observer, so they would think you're going even faster.

Also: don't brake (1)

V for Vendetta (1204898) | about 2 years ago | (#42214381)

Damn, I'm gonna start driving without my headlights on to get better gas mileage!

And brake lights actually don't brake, but accelerate ...

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (1)

necro81 (917438) | about 2 years ago | (#42214723)

Damn, I'm gonna start driving without my headlights on to get better gas mileage

Actually, driving without your headlights on would give you better gas mileage, but not because of the radiative pressure. The electrical power that goes into the headlights is generated, quite inefficiently, by the internal combustion engine. So turning off your headlights will reduce your engine's (mechanical) power demand by perhaps 100-200 watts. Then again, cruising down the highway at 100 kph requires many kilowatts of power, so the effect of the headlights is just noise. You could get the same results by reducing your speed by 1 kph, or properly inflating your tires, or leaving excess mass at home, or not accelerating as fast, or, or, or....

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 2 years ago | (#42213165)

"There, you may resume."

This conclusion was actually published months ago. But the article was still a good bit of history (and a lesson about data preservation).

Re:Article too long, let me save you some time (1)

prefec2 (875483) | about 2 years ago | (#42213411)

Thanks. And wasn't this already reported half a year ago or so? Why is this news again? Who has such a short memory? I'm just wondering ...

obligatory xkcd (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42213597)

I hate IEEE Spectrum (5, Informative)

TrekkieGod (627867) | about 2 years ago | (#42212907)

I hate Spectrum. Not because they have bad articles, but because they never have anything that I haven't already been reading about for the past months, or even years.

Hint to editors. If you ever get a submission with a link to Spectrum, chances are very high that Slashdot has covered [slashdot.org] it before [slashdot.org] .

Re:I hate IEEE Spectrum (3, Interesting)

tloh (451585) | about 2 years ago | (#42213141)

I too, stopped reading Spectrum a few years ago when real science article dropped to a trickle. However, this particular article is not bad. Not only was it authored by one of the original problem solvers, it was very readable despite the length. I was intrigued particularly by their description of how they modeled the craft. It struck me as they described having to contend with blueprints rather than CAD files and consulting retired engineers from the original mission, that they appeared to have forgotten there is a very nice physical model of the craft hanging from the ceiling of the Smithsonian:

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

I'm sure given the stakes involved (the real likely hood of discovering exotic physics) they wouldn't have minded taking the "replica" down for examination.

Re:I hate IEEE Spectrum (1)

TrekkieGod (627867) | about 2 years ago | (#42213263)

I too, stopped reading Spectrum a few years ago when real science article dropped to a trickle. However, this particular article is not bad. Not only was it authored by one of the original problem solvers, it was very readable despite the length.

Yeah, like I said, it's not that I had a problem with the quality of the article, it's just that it lacked new information. The summary didn't mention that this was about the heat pressure from Pioneer so, like a fool, I went on to read the whole article thinking that maybe this was something new, showing that the heat explanation wasn't enough, and there was actually new physics. Instead, the article contains absolutely no information I hadn't already read about over 6 months ago, and I was a bit bitter when I posted.

And that's the thing about Spectrum: all the articles are crappy. They're either crappy because it's a business article about tech startups instead of the actual tech, or crappy because for anyone actually interested in the field they're coming in so late that they offer nothing new: you've already read about it in far more detail elsewhere. This case was the latter. The slashdot submission from April (link in my post above) contains a link to the pdf of the actual paper, which is also very readable. I'm not a physicist or work with anything space-related, but as just an electrical engineer, I had no problems following it. Basically, if your field of work required you to take some math in college, you're good.

It struck me as they described having to contend with blueprints rather than CAD files and consulting retired engineers from the original mission, that they appeared to have forgotten there is a very nice physical model of the craft hanging from the ceiling of the Smithsonian

I'm sure if necessary that could have been arranged. That said, I think the blueprints and consulting the engineers who worked with the thing is actually the easier path. They'd have to disassemble the model and measure the thing both internally and externally exactly to build CAD models of it, measurements which would have been in the blueprints. And then I think they'd still need to consult with the original engineers involved, so they could get someone with experience to help pin down exactly how the RTGs radiated heat, where, and how much of it you'd expect. Besides, so many people have been trying to solve the Pioneer anomaly over the years, that it'd be difficult logistically for the Smithsonian to lend the thing to every scientist trying to get evidence for his particular theory.

Re:I hate IEEE Spectrum (5, Funny)

El Puerco Loco (31491) | about 2 years ago | (#42213201)

And if you're reading it on Slashdot, chances are that Slashdot has also covered it before.

Re:I hate IEEE Spectrum (5, Informative)

gagol (583737) | about 2 years ago | (#42213419)

I suggest to anyone unhappy about repeat articles to help with moderation of submitted articles in "Recent".

Re:I hate IEEE Spectrum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42213343)

Then again, if you have been in a coma during last few years and want to gain a spectrum of what is been talked about during the years, you can read it on ..eh .. Spectrum.

TORA TORA TORA TAXI !! SEE YOU LATER MY SUN !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42212921)

Tora, Tora, Tora Taxi !! - Mark Knofler

Rusing Sun went up smoking ash !! - Joni Mitchell

This day will live in INFAMY !! - George C. Scott

Re:TORA TORA TORA TAXI !! SEE YOU LATER MY SUN !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42213253)

Ever seen U.S. Navy fatigues? They're blue. Stick out like a blue thumb. Might as well wear a bullseye on your back, head, and chest. No wonder the Japs sunk their battleships.

Not so new (5, Informative)

Dan East (318230) | about 2 years ago | (#42212945)

Not so new of a theory, and already discussed here at Slashdot:

http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/07/26/0135234/heat-most-likely-cause-of-pioneer-anomaly [slashdot.org]

Everything from clouds of dark matter, weird gravitational effects, alien tampering and exotic new physics have all been blamed for the 'Pioneer Anomaly' — the tiny, inexplicable sun-ward acceleration acting on the veteran Pioneer deep space probes. However, evidence is mounting for a more mundane explanation. Yes, it's the emission of heat from the spacecrafts' onboard radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), slowly nudging the Pioneers off course, that looks like the most likely culprit. It's unlikely that this new finding will completely silence advocates of more exotic explanations, however.

Re:Not so new (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42213113)

Even older: http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/03/31/1328258/Pioneer-Anomaly-Solved-By-1970s-Computer-Graphics

The real reason (1)

XB-70 (812342) | about 2 years ago | (#42212971)

Low on gas!

Le sigh (0)

Dyinobal (1427207) | about 2 years ago | (#42212975)

I know it is unscientific of me, but I hate it when the answer is so much less interesting than the mystery. Not because I dislike seeing a mystery solved but because when the answer is mundane it just means we have to look else where for the really earth shaking discoveries. Hopefully some day in my life time we will make some truly earth shaking discovery. I remain optimistic.

Re:Le sigh (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42213051)

How was this not interesting? Less energy than is put out by your headlights on your car was actually slowing down a multi-tonne spacecraft zipping through space at over 36,000 miles per second! While its not groundbreaking, it definitely is interesting science, and its frigging SPACE man!

Higgs Boson was discovered and proved to be real. They might even have found a previously undetected particle as well!

Dark matter was proven to exist and the mystery of why the universe is expanding faster and faster was solved!

A private company went into space!

A man jumped from the edge of space and landed safely while anyone on the planet who cared to watch did so!

What the heck do you want, Science to prove God Exists and invite him over for freaking tea?!?

How can you be so jaded?

Re:Le sigh (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about 2 years ago | (#42213431)

How was this not interesting?...

...What the heck do you want, Science to prove God Exists and invite him over for freaking tea?!?...

?

Now that would be both interesting and difficult to accomplish for "Science", since it would involve scientists believing in something greater than themselves. It is much simpler and easier to proclaim, "God can't be proven! Pics or it doesn't exist!"

Re:Le sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42213497)

What the heck do you want, Science to prove God Exists and invite him over for freaking tea?!?

No, what I want is for an article about how data preservation led to the confirmation of an existing theory to be titled accurately, as opposed to OMFG NEW THEORY!

Re:Le sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42213593)

I'd like to point out that while I think what Felix Baumgartner did was amazing, the height he jumped from wasn't even near the edge of space.

Re:Le sigh (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 2 years ago | (#42214035)

I know it is unscientific of me, but I hate it when the answer is so much less interesting than the mystery.

I feel perhaps you're not looking at it the right way. So there's no brand new physics here. But it shows a number of really cool things.

1 Science is not limited by human scales. Dispite being only within the solar system, the probe is at nuimaginable distances travelling at unimaginable speeds, yet they could still measure the effect of a force which is unimaginable tiny.

2 It shows yet again that even when you have something wild and apparently inexplicable science will always come through with the answer in the end.

3 We are apparently capable of modelling something in so much detail that this kind of thing is possible. That in itself is an amazing achievement.

Hopefully some day in my life time we will make some truly earth shaking discovery. I remain optimistic.

Look around you. All the technology you see is driven by science. Look at the recent research in biology or condensed matter physics to see some of the amazing descoveries. They are out there. You just have to look.

They would never have noticed it (2)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about 2 years ago | (#42212985)

If the tail lights hadn't burned out.

Re:They would never have noticed it (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about 2 years ago | (#42213227)

If the tail lights hadn't burned out.

If we can see your tail lights, then it is still under warranty.

Invisible Pink Unicorn (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42213025)

Damn, I always thought it was the Invisible Pink Unicorn just fucking with us. Now, science has me questioning my blind faith. Curse you science!!! ::shakes fist::

Regardless - the science is fascinating (5, Interesting)

blanchae (965013) | about 2 years ago | (#42213045)

The design of these spacecrafts is simply amazing. No wonder the US was the technological marvel of the world at the time. Considering the tools that were available then and the thought that was put into the effects of space on the motion, is mind boggling. Not to mention a power source that will last 88 years and the fact that they are still going and communicating while using a 1 bit camera to create fantastic pictures. I am humbled. The technology that was created and developed as a side effect of this monumental tasks is what made the US a technology giant. We need more of this positive vision and less of the negative sabre rattling.

Re:Regardless - the science is fascinating (4, Informative)

PitaBred (632671) | about 2 years ago | (#42213097)

It'll last longer than 88 years. The half life is 88 years... that means it's only halfway done after 88 years. All it's going to do is lose efficiency over the next thousand years or so.

Until it crashes onto a planet of living machines (2)

Press2ToContinue (2424598) | about 2 years ago | (#42213185)

... has it's original programming scrambled and begins to evolve on it's own.

Re:Regardless - the science is fascinating (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42213357)

the junctions break down long before the plutonium cools off

Re:Regardless - the science is fascinating (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214209)

The saddest part is that we could not build another Pioneer today if we wanted to. Government would be too involved, and the project would be managed in terms of whose districts and donors would benefit the most, and we'd end up with another $1B+ satellite that would disappear due to some stupid political requirement, like using a particular lubricant from a particular manufacturer in a certain Congressman's district, even though it was completely inappropriate for use in a space application.

Re:Regardless - the science is fascinating (1)

Maow (620678) | about 2 years ago | (#42214479)

The design of these spacecrafts is simply amazing. No wonder the US was the technological marvel of the world at the time. Considering the tools that were available then and the thought that was put into the effects of space on the motion, is mind boggling. Not to mention a power source that will last 88 years and the fact that they are still going and communicating while using a 1 bit camera to create fantastic pictures. I am humbled. The technology that was created and developed as a side effect of this monumental tasks is what made the US a technology giant. We need more of this positive vision and less of the negative sabre rattling.

I agree with everything you've said, but... I think it's a 1-pixel camera, not 1-bit.

TFA refers to images stitched together pixel-by-pixel, but the images appear to have natural, though low bit depth colour.

Summary (4, Informative)

michaelmalak (91262) | about 2 years ago | (#42213047)

They were able obtain a longer history of telemetry data by getting it from some guy's laptop hard and finding some mag tapes under a staircase, and they reverse engineered hard-copy blueprints with the help of retired TRW engineers into modern CAD & FEA, and determined that the RTGs were bouncing thermal energy off the dish, creating recoil -- about the same amount as a car's headlights throwing photons forwards push the car backwards.

Thanks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42213065)

Thanks to the data backup preservation efforts of a NASA Ames Research engineer...

Redesign (1)

drumcat (1659893) | about 2 years ago | (#42213067)

Maybe in the future, the design of probes should be such that the emanation of energy creates a micro-sail. Maybe it won't matter given the heliosheath, but all other things being equal, I'd prefer its own forces to accelerate it, rather than hinder it.

Re:Redesign (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42213231)

unlikely to happen. The antenna dish needs to point towards earth, the direction the thing is coming from. Putting a reactor in the way so that the heat acts to accelerate would degrade the signal.

Old News (-1, Redundant)

neoshroom (324937) | about 2 years ago | (#42213107)

And not just old news, old news already covered by slashdot. [slashdot.org]
__
Sig: A short personalized message at the end of an internet post.

According to roman_mir (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#42213149)

According to roman_mir it's the unions' fault.

Re:According to roman_mir (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 2 years ago | (#42214039)

Ok, that made me chuckle.

That said, there seems to be a bit of a downmodding campaign against him recently. I don't agree with his premeses, but given them his arguments are generally good. He's certainly no troll and it is a shame to see dissenting opinions simply downmodded. Hopefully whoever has it in for him wil run out of modpoints soon.

Re:According to roman_mir (1)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | about 2 years ago | (#42214761)

The more mod points you use, the more you get. So roman is stuck in an everbuilding loop.

Cone zone (1)

Dahamma (304068) | about 2 years ago | (#42213277)

Don't want to get a double fine from the Vogons...

Nibiru (1)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | about 2 years ago | (#42213371)

the truth is out there

IEEE mobile site redirect stack overflow (2)

Dr. Hok (702268) | about 2 years ago | (#42213487)

When I click the link on my android phone, it redirects to the mobile site, from there back to the normal site, again to the mobile site and on and on, until my browser barfs out. Nice. Engineering at its best.

Re:IEEE mobile site redirect stack overflow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214057)

Programming, not engineering.

Please don't confuse programming with engineering.

Re:IEEE mobile site redirect stack overflow (1)

Hillgiant (916436) | about 2 years ago | (#42214487)

That's not engineering. It's barely design. And a poor one at that.

Summation (3)

blogagog (1223986) | about 2 years ago | (#42213539)

If you don't feel like reading the very long and mostly unrelated story, here is the gist: "The puzzling deceleration was produced by the asymmetric radiation of waste heat created onboard the spacecraft. Read more to find out why we believe this." Seems like an awfully long article just to relate that bit of info imo.

The one time I try to RTFA... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214055)

and it's too fsking long and full of facts.

Here's something sad (5, Interesting)

argStyopa (232550) | about 2 years ago | (#42214197)

....the entire mission cost -all the years in total - for Pioneer 10 was approximately $350 million (2001) USD. (It'll reach Aldebaran in about 2 million years.)

That's a little bit under a single week of NASA's budget this year. ($19bill) ...or about 4 hours of the Defense budget ($677 bill) ...or about an hour of the Social Security+Medicare budgets ($1.92 trillion).

Re:Here's something sad (1)

JestersGrind (2549938) | about 2 years ago | (#42214885)

Come on. It's never going to reach Aldebaran. Everyone knows that was destroyed by the Death Star.

I'm going with what these guys are saying... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214433)

http://www.icr.org/article/3472/

Duplicate? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 2 years ago | (#42214747)

Was there not a /. article a half a year ago that blamed heat for the slowdown?

Also worst summery ever, it needs to actually mention what this new theory is.

Terminology (0)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | about 2 years ago | (#42214855)

My high school physics teacher would like me to point out: There is no such thing as 'decelerating'.

There is accelerating in a positive direction on some respective axis, and accelerating in a negative direction on an axis, but none can be logically called decelerating as it is not somehow un-accelerating, just changing direction.

Re:Terminology (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#42215019)

A deceleration is a decrease in speed. Your high school physics teacher is correct that you need to specify a reference frame for that to mean anything. Fortunately we're standing on a very commonly used one and, for this, an even better one is shining up there in the sky.

TL;DR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42214881)

Hope it wasn't aliens.

Re:TL;DR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42215205)

It was, aliens fucked over the carbinator.

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