back to article Voyager ticks one box for interstellar arrival

The venerable Voyager 1 spacecraft seems to be a little closer to leaving our Sun's neighbourhood behind and entering interstellar space, says NASA. The space agency has outlined three criteria that must be satisfied before Voyager will be deemed to have left the heliosphere, the first of which is detection of galactic cosmic …


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  1. stuartnz
    Thumb Up

    This was so exciting to read. Especially to learn that Voyager should be good for another 12 years at least - surely comfortably into interstellar space by then, with the little blue dot invisibly small. Trin Tragula was right, and it's great that the Voyagers are helping prove it.

    1. Anomynous Coward

      Yes, it's a really good reminder of how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big space is.

  2. Herby

    Consider this...

    The spacecraft were launched in 1977, 35 years ago. It was probably designed a few years before that as well (microprocessors were a little primitive in that era). If I remember correctly, the Voyager spacecraft didn't have much of a micro to speak of anyway. So, does anyone out there have a computer from that era that is in working order?

    Oh, and the speed of 7200 bps was pretty fast in that era, and consider the distance the data travels, it is a few km/miles between us and the spacecraft is only a few watts of power in its transmitter.

    Quite an accomplishment if you ask me!

    MJS77 lives!

    1. Doug Bostrom

      Re: Consider this...

      Last time I tried it (a couple of years ago) my Trash-80 still worked.

      I just can't throw it away. I paid for it w/proceeds from a janitorial job; the damned thing represents more toilet scrubbing than I care to remember.

  3. Quantum Leaper

    I have a computer (DEC something with 8 inch disks) from the late 70s the turns on but doesn't work correctly since I don't have a working boot disk. I have a number of game consoles from the 70s, a Fairchild Channel F, a couple Atari 2600s, a Atari Pong (only 2 of 4 paddles) and a Coleco Combat, all still work good. So hardware that old still works, if you take care of it. I have other old electronic stuff that still works, but they are mainly toys.

  4. Roger Stenning


    No wormhole encounter yet? How disappointing ;-)

    1. John 62

      Re: Hmm...

      We'll get a message from Avery Brooks claiming to be from the Prophets. Nurse Ratchet will claim to be the high priestess, but Gul Dukat will seduce her to bring the Pagh Wraiths to earth.

  5. Kevin (Just Kevin)

    Bit rates is one thing... time is another

    Another tidbit... One-way data travel time is over 16.5 hours!

    1. Ragarath

      Re: Bit rates is one thing... time is another

      I get you, your saying to Voyager not to try multiplayer gaming as the lag would just kill them?

  6. Martin Huizing

    "so we're pretty sure there's a few packets dropped along the way"

    And you don't think these space boffins integrated ECC (Error Check and Correct) technology in the data stream?

    Still all in all amazing these little machines are still going and I hope the data received will help to develop better space exploring technologies. God Speed!

    1. json

      Re: "so we're pretty sure there's a few packets dropped along the way"

      probably not... it might be too taxing on onboard pre-micro computers. I'd hazard a guess it's all fire and forget ala UDP.

      1. JimmyPage

        Re: "so we're pretty sure there's a few packets dropped along the way"

        Might be able to use parity though ?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Voyager error correction

        Actually Voyage was launched with the concatenated convolution & Reed-Solomon error correction system that was not, at the time, tried and tested but the engineers expected it to deliver better performance than the then-standard long constraint length convolution codes.

        It is implemented on dedicated hardware, with the choice of the dual-basis (Berlekamp) RS representation made to simplify the hardware design (in a software encoder or decoder it need an additional, though trivial, look-up transformation).

        And it did work, becoming the de-facto FEC system for most space use until the rise of Turbo codes in the last decade, which provide only an extra 1-2dB of performance.

        An impressive achievement!

    2. Crisp

      Re: "God Speed"

      God Speed isn't fast enough!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "so we're pretty sure there's a few packets dropped along the way"

      Wasn't PRML invented for Voyager?

  7. That Awful Puppy

    Here's to humanity in general

    And to the fantastic blokes who built the damn thing.

    How about we start concentrating on such things, rather than on building fscking commercial satellites?

    1. Armando 123

      Re: Here's to humanity in general

      Fair point; I'd love to see us build more Voyagers and space probes. However, keep in mind that because the commercial launches make the technologies more affordable, they should make planetary and trans-planetary probes MORE affordable. Of course, all governments are governments OF the bureaucrat, BY the ureaucrate, FOR the bureaucrat; which means they care more about currying votes by ... Sorry, I'll put my libertarianism back; don't know how it got out.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good work V1 / V2

    The day will arrive soon, that our wee space probe that's travelled further than any man made object in existence will arrive at the edge of our great solar system, it will be ready to take on the new challenges that await it outside and keep on providing us with once in a life time data on what goes on out there.......

    and just as its about to pass the threshold,,,,,,,,,


    it puts a hole in a giant sphere covered in what looks like LCD panels and a booming voice lets you know that your entire existence is nothing be a reality TV show.

    hehe :)

    The wonderful thing about this and our existence for that matter.......

    Prove me wrong! ;)

    1. Captain Save-a-ho

      Re: Good work V1 / V2

      Challenge accepted.

      1. The heliosphere that represents this mythical threshold isn't a giant sphere at all, but is really more of an ovoid.

      2. There would be no booming voice, as sound cannot travel in a vacuum.

      And, there's always the Chewbacca defense.

    2. Rob Carriere

      Re: Good work V1 / V2

      We're about to break the crystal sphere...

      1. Paw Bokenfohr
        Thumb Up

        Re: Good work V1 / V2

        @ Rob Carriere

        Seriously - thank you for that - I'd never read the Crystal Spheres. Awesome :-)

  9. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Think about it until your head hurts

    Interstellar space!

    That's freaking awesome.

    1. Nigel 11
      Thumb Down

      Head nowhere near hurting

      It's less than a light-day out. Great engineering, but ...

      The nearest star is about four light-YEARS away.

      Our galaxy is amout 120,000 light-years across and contains around 400 BILLION stars.

      The observable universe is tens of billions of light-years across and contains more GALAXIES than our galaxy contains stars.

      Head hurting yet?

  10. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Interesting Background Reading

    The Wikipedia entries on the Voyager (and Pioneer) missions make interesting reading. Is a good starting point.

    For those who are amazed at 70s technology still working, add this to the mix: Space is not friendly to electronics. It's darn cold out there, and there's an awful lot of cosmic radiation out there.

    1. json

      Re: Interesting Background Reading

      .. they're nuclear powered arent they? should be plenty of warmth for the electronics.

      1. DJ 2

        Re: Interesting Background Reading

        Everything is turned off, so that the heater can warm the functioning electronics.

        After all this time, has it got a frosting of particles picked up from its passage out of the system?

  11. frank ly

    But what is it?

    Is the interstellar radiation thought to be made up of gamma rays, high speed particles; and what are their intensities compared to local interplanetary space?

    I realise that no instrument has been there to measure them, but what are the theories?

  12. a_mu

    hats off to the engineers

    an amazing bit of what we used to be able to do stuff.

    how many computers of today will work in 40 years time ?

    with my managers hat on, these are failures,

    they were obviously over engineered, lasting much longer than they are intended to

    cost way more than they could have , and stopping us selling new / better toys

    or have I that wrong some where ?

    :-> ..

    How we used to be able to make stuff that did a great engineering job,


  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Astonishing, every time I see a Voyager news item it gives me a real sense of pride that humans can do this sort of thing. Then I look around at the other news and sadness in despair at why we do the terrible things to each other.

    We really are a very strange race.

    Good luck Voyager.

    1. Callam McMillan

      I wouldn't be too sad, it's what we did to each other and the need for both the USA and USSR to have a bigger penis than the other that pushed space missions forward.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Just think what we could have achieved if we'd not spent all that time and effort discovering new and more horrific ways to kill each other and instead got on with doing things that would benefit us all.

        Politicians waving their dicks around are almost as bad as religion at holding back humanity.

  14. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    Lucky Bastards!

    "Voyager's high gain antenna, which sends science data back to earth, is said to send data at rates… as high as 7.2 kilobits per second”"

    I don't get anything like that on Sky Broadband. How do I move to their ISP?

    1. Silverburn
      Thumb Up

      Re: Lucky Bastards!

      Only Snag is your latest Episode of House will be 16.5hrs Late.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lucky Bastards!

        about the time it takes for the torrent of the mkv to appear and be downloaded then.

  15. Crisp

    We should be sending more.

    With today's technology we should be able to get better instrument packages to the heliosphere in less than 35 years surely?

    1. Marek

      Re: We should be sending more.

      Couldn't agree more. We should be thinking ahead... a long way ahead. Send out something now with all it's power and systems optimised for sending back data for as long as possible from as far as possible. They'll be thanking us for it in the future the same way we're thanking those engineers in 70s.

  16. Mine's a pint

    Voyager data integrity

    In the early 80s I was on a CD player maintenance course and was told that the forward error correction used to make them damage resistant was Reed-Solomon coding, developed in 1960 and used for Voyager communication. It is still in use for DVD and QR codes amongst many others.

  17. IonU


    Let’s just hope we are prepared for when it comes back to earth looking for the creator.

    1. Armando 123

      Re: Vejur

      If it involves a young Persis Kimbata, I'm for it!

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Re: Vejur

        Unfortunately this Voyager's fate involves a rather ugly bunch of Klingons.

  18. Simon Harris

    7.2 kbps ?

    Wondering where that figure came from..

    JPL themselves say:

    'Uplink communications is via S-band (16-bits/sec command rate) while an X-band transmitter provides downlink telemetry at 160 bits/sec normally and 1.4 kbps for playback of high-rate plasma wave data. All data are transmitted from and received at the spacecraft via the 3.7 meter high-gain antenna (HGA). '

    1. GitMeMyShootinIrons

      Re: 7.2 kbps ?

      Still, it's quicker than my broadband.

  19. launcap Silver badge

    I wonder when the interstellar dragons will get it?

    Ah, youth. I remember it dimly :-(

  20. David 45


    Amazing that communication is still there over such a vast distance and that the wee beastie is still working at all!

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