back to article Voyager's 35th birthday gift: One-way INTERSTELLAR ticket

As NASA's Voyager probes complete their 35th year of operation, Voyager 1 has sensed a second change in the surrounding expanse of obsidian nothingness - just as scientists predicted would happen before the craft enters interstellar space. Artist's impression of Voyager 1 and 2 in the heliosheath Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech …

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  2. Only me!
    Alien

    If the sale of these was announced on 12 Sept......I would sign up to buy one and even queue!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Headmaster

      Space - is big, very, very big..... in fact it's so big.....

      All of yous, go here, and watch / download at least the first say 8 videos....

      http://www.khanacademy.org/science/cosmology-and-astronomy

      Or you can download the entire site (all vids, all subjects) from here....

      http://mujica.org/khan/howto.html

      The universe and the sizes of it all, you know, the videos explained it all - my mind has blown.

      Really. It's just incomprehensibly HUGE, and that is only the KNOWN or OBSERVABLE size of the universe.

      And it's unknowably hugerea evera even more again.

      I mean to the edge of the heliosphere is HUGE..... but it's really nothing of nothing, a billion, trillion times over, and then some more again.

      I am wanting to see "instant through universe mapping and travel" happen - but while star treck and star wars etc., were interesting in the traveling through space aspect.....

      The known size of the observable universe is - words escape me.

      See the videos.

  3. Callam McMillan
    Thumb Up

    Yay!

    I love reading about the Voyager missions, it is science and engineering at its very best without the politics and "mine's bigger than yours" that goes along with current science projects. Depending on what information they come back with, it'd be good to see a dedicated Interstellar mission planned.

  4. Scott 2

    Earth's greatest achievement

    Building something that lasts, even against micrometeorites, still communicates and still senses.

    I wonder if it'll encounter pure dark energy beyond the solar boundary and suddenly enter warp 9...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Earth's greatest achievement

      Or they might just hear a loud *thunk* as it hits the edge, Truman Show stylie.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Happy

        Re: Earth's greatest achievement

        lol - that is EXACTLY what I thought even before I read you post :) :)

      2. Frumious Bandersnatch

        Re: Earth's greatest achievement

        Or they might just hear a loud *thunk* as it hits the edge, Truman Show stylie.

        Or maybe it just wraps around, Misner-space stylee :)

  5. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Headmaster

    "Good afternoon, Mr. Amer. Everything is going extremely well"

    We read:

    Nevertheless, it's NASA's longest-operating craft ever, rocketing through space for the last 35 years.

    "Rocketing" is not the word I would use. "Falling", "following a geodesic through spacetime", possibly "careening" or "hurtling" would be more appropriate.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: "Good afternoon, Mr. Amer. Everything is going extremely well"

      I admire your pedantry - but in my defence (for I did proofread it) rocketing can generally mean "move or progress very rapidly".

      C.

      1. Matt 21

        Re: "Good afternoon, Mr. Amer. Everything is going extremely well"

        60000 km/h or have I miscalculated somewhere!

        That could be described as "bombing" along but perhaps that would frighten the aliens :-)

        1. Scott 19
          Coat

          Re: "Good afternoon, Mr. Amer. Everything is going extremely well"

          As it is the USAs NASA I'd use 'shooting along'.

          1. Mike Flugennock

            Re: "Good afternoon, Mr. Amer. Everything is going extremely well"

            As it is the USAs NASA I'd use 'shooting along'.

            Speaking as an American, I and many of my friends like to describe its rapid velocity as "wailing"... as in "60,000km/h! Man, that sucker's really wailing!

            Btw, nice Doors reference by the Cal Tech guy... Break on through, break on through, break on through, break on through, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!

            "Alive!" she cried!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "Good afternoon, Mr. Amer. Everything is going extremely well"

            Trolls never disappoint. BTW, you forgot to call them "sceptics ".

  6. Crisp

    Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

    Just imagine what we could learn with a Voyager packed with modern day scientific instruments.

    1. Irongut

      Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

      Nothing because it would break down before it even reached Jupiter.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

      Pluto Fast Flyby

      "The Pluto Fast Flyby was later cancelled due to a lack of funding, but it was replaced by the Pluto Kuiper Express."

      Okay.

      Pluto Kuiper Express!

      "The mission was cancelled for budgetary reasons, but later replaced by the similar New Horizons mission."

      OKAY!

      New Horizons

      "New Horizons is a NASA robotic spacecraft mission currently en route to the dwarf planet Pluto. It is expected to be the first spacecraft to fly by and study Pluto and its moons, Charon, Nix, Hydra, S/2011 P 1, and S/2012 P 1, with an estimated arrival date at the Pluto–Charon system of July 14, 2015. NASA may then also attempt flybys of one or more other Kuiper belt objects, if a suitable target can be located."

      All right then. Phew.

      I think it's time that wealthy people of interest picked up some tabs. Spend some money, guys, I will vote against the tax harpies.

      1. redhunter

        Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

        They are http://www.skyandtelescope.com/news/160839035.html although I'm sure they'll accept a donation from you.

      2. hayseed

        Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

        > I think it's time that wealthy people of interest picked up some tabs. Spend some money, guys, I will vote

        > against the tax harpies.

        Where are the Charles Yerkeses and Percival Lowells (P.L.uto) of this new age? "Gates" or "Virgin _" could be rolled into some interesting names.

      3. hayseed

        Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

        It wouldn't be right to forget Andrew Carnegie.

    3. Geoff Johnson

      Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

      We are / do / have.

      New Horizons is heading for Pluto.

      Dawn is off to Ceres having already surveyed Vesta.

      Cassini is orbiting Saturn.

      Curiosity is trundling around Mars.

      And that's just the few that spring to mind.

      There is a tendency to go to other planets and stay there rather than doing a tour of the solar system, but you can get a lot more science done it you have a few years in orbit, rather than an hour flying past. New Horizons is the exception to the rule but the physics of getting there make an orbiting probe a bit too tricky.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge
        Go

        Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

        TWO rovers trundling around Mars! Don't forget poor 'ol Opportunity!

      2. Annihilator Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

        "There is a tendency to go to other planets and stay there rather than doing a tour of the solar system, but you can get a lot more science done it you have a few years in orbit, rather than an hour flying past."

        I'm fairly sure that the Voyager trips were a rather "once in a lifetime" event (every 200 years or so?) due to a rather rare alignment of the outer planets. So very few probes will do tours of the solar system for a while yet.

      3. Dave Walker
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

        Plus Venus Express radar mapping Venus!

        (Icon: just 'cuz)

    4. PassiveSmoking

      Re: Isn't about time we built another Voyager?

      It was a fortuitous planetary alignment that allowed the Voyager missions to occur when they did, the positions of the major outer planets allowed the probes to get a gravitational speed boost from each one as they passed. This particular set of conditions is not going to occur again for a long time, and getting to the edge of the solar system on rocket power alone can't be done with current technology (Well possibly with the fancy next generation of ion drives and VASIMR engines but you'd still need a hell of a lot of fuel). We'll probably have to wait for the next alignment before we can do the Grand Tour again.

  7. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Nobel?

    The scientists behind Voyager are a mixture of physicists and geologists. The former discipline has a Nobel prize. In the past, the committee have been willing to award that prize to those who head up massive collaborations. I wonder if they have the imagination to reward the Voyager team. It is surely one of the most stunningly successful scientific experiments ever.

    1. Turtle

      @Ken Hagan Re: Nobel?

      "I wonder if they have the imagination to reward the Voyager team."

      I might be misunderstanding your intent here, but a Nobel Prize can only be awarded to a maximum of three people. It's in the rules:

      "A maximum of three laureates and two different works may be selected per award. Except for the Peace Prize, which can be awarded to institutions, the awards can only be given to individuals. If the Peace Prize is not awarded, the money is split among the scientific prizes. This has happened 19 times so far." - Wikipedia

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: @Ken Hagan Nobel?

        Although lately the discussion has been started whether that rule should be overruled in order to award the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the Higgs mechanism (and the Higgs boson) to more than three of

        Philip Anderson

        Robert Brout

        François Englert

        Gerald Guralnik

        Carl Hagen

        Peter Higgs

        Tom Kibble

        Gerard t'Hooft

        And even that would be unfair to the CERN collaborations.

        The time of easily identifiable "core individuals" responsible for a scientific discovery has passed I think.

        1. hayseed
          Facepalm

          Re: @Ken Hagan Nobel?

          And to think that I skipped a lot of classes taught by a person on this list!

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: @Ken Hagan Nobel?

        I'm aware of the rule. My point is that the rule hasn't stopped the committee from awarding a prize to a humungous collaboration. I hate to pick on individuals, since it implies I don't think they deserved it (which is something I'm not knowledgeable enough to claim) but an example may give others something to shoot at:

        Carlo Rubbia and Simon van der Meer shared the 1984 prize for creating the W and Z bosons at CERN. The basic idea of colliding protons and anti-protons is not *that* inventive. The inventiveness comes from solving the engineering problem of actually making the scheme work. I find it hard to believe that just two people made the crucial engineering breakthroughs. I bet there are dozens of others who reckon they have a moral share in the prize.

  8. Alister Silver badge
    Boffin

    Serious question...

    ...if that is possible.

    The article makes reference to "north" and "south" in a number of places, eg

    ...the direction of the magnetic fields, which will change from running east-west to running north-south.

    Right now, Voyager 1 is heading north while Voyager 2, at least 9 billion miles from the Sun, is moving south.

    Are these directions with respect to Earth - and therefore does this mean the two craft are traveling up from, and down from the plane of the ecliptic, respectively?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Serious question...

      Seems a good question, seems you are not the first to ask it: http://cosmoquest.org/forum/archive/index.php/t-58802.html

      A fellow called Mugaliens enlightened that forum with "The Sun has a defined North and South Pole, as does the ecliptic, based on the motion around the pole being counterclockwise when viewed from the north.

      An easy way to remember this is to take your right hand, curve your fingers in the direction of Earth's orbit around the sun, and stick your thumb up. Your thumb points North.Interesting, this is the same way I remember the lines of magnetic flux around a straight wire carrying a current."

      1. El Richard Thomas

        Re: Serious question...

        Interesting how you remember the magnetic field orientation. When I did O level physics they taught us Maxwell's Corkscrew Rule. Of course that's not very helpful if you don't drink wine ;-)

        (PS nearly 30 years later (and absolutely no need to use it) and I still remember it - sign of a good mnemonic!)

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Serious question...

      By convention, 'North' and 'South' in the context of the Solar System refer to positions relative to the plane of the ecliptic (defined as the plane in which the Earth orbits the sun), such that the rotation of the Solar System is counter-clockwise if viewed from 'North'. This is not the same as 'North' and 'South' as defined on Earth, as the Earth is tilted with respect to the plane of the ecliptic, so Earth's 'North' rotates in a circle approximately 23 degrees out from the Solar Systems' North.

      A picture paints a thousand words, so here:

      Stolen from Wikipedia

      1. Alister Silver badge

        Re: Serious question...

        Thanks for that, when I said the Earth, I suppose I really meant the Sun.

        So, in order to visit the outer planets, both these vehicles must have originally been launched in the plane of the ecliptic, is that correct? But they have now changed direction so that they are traveling at ninety degrees to it?

        1. Lirleni

          Re: Serious question...

          They aren't going straight north/south, rather more like 'east-north-east' and 'east-south-east'. Direction change out of the ecliptic done by gravity boost at the last planet they visited, going over/under the poles.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Fleming's LEFT-hand rule

            Whilst as mentioned above one can use their right hand to remind themselves of the direction of the sun's poles, the one for electromagnetic induction involves the LEFT hand.

  9. Trollslayer
    Thumb Up

    I don't care if it makes me sound like a geek

    This is cool!!

    Earth's first visit to interstellar space and both craft have survived 35 years SO FAR.

    North/South etc. are relative to the ecliptic plane. If they avoid the ecliptic then they are less likely to hit particles I guess.

  10. frank ly

    Astrophysics questions....

    The article notes a rapidly escalating amount of galactic cosmic rays as Voyager goes through the 'heliosheath'. Are these 'rays' slowed and stopped or deflected by the effects of Sol? If so, is it a magnetic, electrostatic or electromagnetic effect? I can't imagine it would be particle interaction since everything out there is mostly empty space and I can't see how photons coming in would be affected at all.

    Is it a boiling maelstrom of energetic 'stuff' on the outside of the heliosheath region or is this an increase which is only noticeable by sensitive instruments?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Astrophysics questions....

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliosphere seems pertinant to your question. I'm not sure though, because it is making my brain hurt. I did note that the assumed model of what was happening was revised in 2009 due to data from the Cassini probe.

      >I can't imagine it would be particle interaction since everything out there is mostly empty space

      Very, very low pressure is still pressure.

      1. frank ly

        Re: Astrophysics questions....

        Thank you Dave; I should have had the sense to try that first (and it made my brain hurt too). I'm extending my imagination to cover gaseous particle interactions that take place over many millions of miles with time intervals of days/months/years.

  11. /dev/null
    Boffin

    The ultimate engineering project

    It must have been quite something to have been involved in building a machine that is still functioning after 35 years, has now left our solar system, and will be out there, somewhere, for thousands of years, if not eternity.

    Now that's what you call leaving your mark.

    1. frank ly

      Re: The ultimate engineering project

      After a couple of hundred years, it will be picked up by an advanced alien civilisation and given a refit/upgrade. (I saw a drama-documentary about that a few years ago on tv.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The ultimate engineering project

        (I saw a drama-documentary about that a few years ago on tv.)

        I think I saw that one, it had William Shatner in it...

      2. Tim #3

        Re: The ultimate engineering project - couple of hundred years

        Mind bogglingly, and going by my rough calculations, in a couple of hundred years time it will still have another 73800 years to travel at the current speed before reaching the distance of our nearest star. Unless it bumps into something on the way of course.

      3. Nigel 11

        Re: Eternity

        It will evaporate(*) well before eternity. It will probably have evaporated before it next encounters a solar system (unless they managed to aim it precisely at one of our nearest neighbours a mere handful of light-years away).

        (*) most things have a vapour pressure greater than that of interstellar space. Also it's being bombarded by high-energy particles.

        1. david 12

          Re: Eternity/Evaporation

          Interesting. I was taught that the vapour pressure in Earth orbit was greater than the vapour pressure of the metalic oxides forming the skin of space-craft. But we never looked at the numbers for interstellar space.

    2. Matt 21

      Re: The ultimate engineering project

      Not sure the builders of the Great Wall of China would agree :-)

  12. Norman123

    I wish they made cars, computers, appliances and other products as reliable as the Voyagers.... When corporate America puts something to last, it will last. I hope they abandon planned obsolescence.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      bah.

      "I wish they made cars, computers, appliances and other products as reliable as the Voyagers.... "

      My C64 still works fine, though the floppy disks are getting harder to read.

      There are still plenty of 70's vintage cars and motorcycles running about, though not many around NY. I bet the Voyagers wouldn't be looking too hot if they had to deal with NYC taxis, snowpocalypses and salted roads.

      Grandma's Hobart stand mixers, they're still chugging along and highly coveted by pastry chefs.

      "When corporate America puts something to last, it will last. I hope they abandon planned obsolescence."

      Well, when you basically have unlimited funding, you can build things to last.

  13. BugMan
    Happy

    They just don't

    make them like they used to....

    Anyone want to take bets on how much of our current kit will still be working 35 years from now?

    Remind me, does Apple hold the patent on self distructing hardware or do they rely on fashion to make their stuff obsolete?

    1. FartingHippo
      FAIL

      Re: They just don't

      Bollocks. The Opportunity Rover is still puttering around Mars after almost 9 years. Initial mission plan was for 90 days.

      NASA engineers are still amongst the finest on the planet, and have my utmost admiration.

    2. proto-robbie
      Megaphone

      Re: They just don't

      Well, I'm still working, if you can call this work.

      Megaphone? Well I am a little bit on the deaf side these days.

  14. Hayden Clark Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    The DTR must be a marvel.

    The idea of a electro mechanical thing like a tape drive, still working after many, many hours of record, rewind, play, seek, play, rewind etc., is just amazing. And the tape still has some oxide left on it!

    Imagine putting your ear to the spacecraft (space being a vacuum an' all) and still hearing the "clunk.. whirr...clunk.... squee-squee-squeee..." noises after all this time.

    1. Fatman

      Re: The DTR must be a marvel.

      I would suggest that the "tape" isn't your garden variety mylar or polyethylene backed crap found at your local 'nickel an dime' store.For this purpose, I bet it is some kind of metal based tape. Perhaps not unlike what was used in early airplane "black boxes" (as a data recorder, not the cockpit voice recorder). What is interesting is the transport mechanism. As you stated, stop, start, fast forward and rewind, all mechanical operations. And it must work flawlessly.

  15. Andy 36
    Joke

    VGER

    ...Seeks the creator

  16. JeffyPooh
    Pint

    35 years old

    I have some radios that I bought brand new 38 years ago that still work.

    Of course, they're not in a hard vacuum exposed to Cosmic Rays.

    1. Mike Flugennock

      Re: 35 years old

      I have some radios that I bought brand new 38 years ago that still work...

      A couple of years ago, I finally retired my 1972 Kenwood receiver/amp. I wasn't its first owner (I bought it from a buddy of mine after I graduated college in 1979). It was still functioning perfectly at the time. The only failure was the burnout of the electro-luminescent backlight on the FM signal meter after I'd had it about ten years, but the meter itself still worked.

      One of my favorite things to do when poking around YouTube is to check out the footage of old CRT TV sets from the '30s, powered up and functioning perfectly. I especially enjoyed watching some footage posted by a guy in the UK, of a mid '30s vintage TV set receiving a telecast of an old Fawlty Towers episode.

      1. Pedigree-Pete

        Re: 35 years old

        No more UHF TV here (UK). My late 50s luggable used until early 80s is now completely obsolete. No SCART either!

    2. Nigel 11

      Re: 35 years old

      Your radio is in a moist oxidising atmosphere. Why do you think that things we want to last for a long time are vacuum-packed?

  17. shade82000

    There is nothing beyond the edge of the solar system, it's just a big black board with pictures of stars on it.

    The craft were captured by an alien race many years ago and they are really not that far away.

    They decode incoming signals, wait a few hours and then send us back the data that we want to see.

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Incorrect. They send back the data they want us to see.

    2. Frumious Bandersnatch

      @shade82000

      There is nothing beyond the edge of the solar system, it's just a big black board with pictures of stars on it.

      Reminds me of Omon Ra by Victor Pelevin. On what really happened with the CCCP's space programme.

    3. Nigel 11

      You are just a simulation of a human brain in the aliens' computer. It monitors where you think you are looking and sends appropriate simulations of reality back to simulated optic nerves.

      Same idea on a grander scale, and a bugger to disprove. Isn't Occam's Razon wonderful! Relax and watch ze blinkenlights.

  18. Scott 19
    Happy

    ?

    I'm sure I watched a documentary where the probe returned and nearly destroyed the earth.

    Luckily James T Kirk (A descendant of Neil Armstrong I'm lead to believe) was on hand.

  19. b166er

    For reliability of (admittedly earth-bound) old gear, see the Kenwood Electric Chef. At least two of which I know are still in regular use today, a good 50 years subsequent to their purchase.

    I'm in awe of the very large (yet at the same time, infinitesimally small) 11.1 billion miles number!

  20. Badvok
    Alien

    Them damn pesky aliens are having a right laugh at us mere humans who still think we are receiving signals from the Voyager craft when really they destroyed them ages ago to stop us finding their home.

  21. JDX Gold badge

    How are we still able to pick up transmissions from something so far away, they must be horrendously weak by the time they reach earth?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Use a big dish, precisely pointed to capture the photons, select a frequency band with little interference so that the whole universe looks as quiet as a Lovecraftian underground cave, reduce bitrate to accumulate more energy in order to reliably decide whether a 1 or 0 was sent, increase redundancy to keep acceptable distance between the symbols of your language.

      http://science.howstuffworks.com/question431.htm

      http://www.uhf-satcom.com/misc/datasheet/dh2va.pdf <- Impressive dB numbers in there: 314 dB at 100 AU

  22. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    "I've just picked up a fault in the AE-35 unit"

    Relevant: Computers in Spaceflight: The NASA Experience

    Wherein we read among others:

    "Manpower estimates for software development ranged from one programmer in 1974 and 1977, with a peak of four full-time programmers in late 1975."

    Clearly not an enterprisey solution.

    1. PT
      Boffin

      Re: "I've just picked up a fault in the AE-35 unit"

      "Manpower estimates for software development ranged from one programmer in 1974 and 1977, with a peak of four full-time programmers in late 1975."

      Ah, that must be why it's still working. Everyone knows that the ideal team size for writing compact, bug free software in the minimum total man-hours is one.

  23. Alister Silver badge

    Build quality

    My mother has a refrigerator that she bought new in 1968, still working fine...

    Okay, so admittedly it wasn't stuck on top of a massive firework and shot into space, and it isn't currently floating in a vacuum at a temperature of -470C

    On balance, It probably wouldn't work so well if it had been through all that - and besides, where would you plug it in?

    1. FartingHippo
      Boffin

      Re: Build quality

      At that (unlikely) temperature, I think refrigeration would be the last thing you'd need. So I wouldn't worry about the plug.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge
        Trollface

        Re: unlikely temperature

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_temperature

        1. Alister Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: unlikely temperature

          Yes, typo fail there - was meant to say -270C working on the fact that it may not be quite absolute zero, although I guess that still may be wrong...

    2. Graham Bartlett

      Re: Build quality

      I'd be more impressed with a vacuum bought new in 1968 still working, regardless of temperature.

      Incidentally, good luck getting temperatures down to -470 degrees Celsius in this universe.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Build quality

      Absolute zero is roughly -273.15c

      I think you have a units failure. Something some parts of NASA are quite familiar with.

      1. Alister Silver badge

        Re: Build quality

        I think you're wrong, Celsius is denoted "C" where I come from

  24. Scott Broukell
    Joke

    Wake me up ......

    ... when the restaurant comes into view on the scanners will you.

  25. Gobhicks
    Happy

    Awesome achievement...

    ... but I bet NASA's sorry they caved in and shelled out for the extended guarantee

  26. Vattayil

    Comments

    Same as what has been indicated earlier during submission

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When El Reg says "miles"...

    ...would that be imperial(?) statute miles (or whatever they are called) = ca. 1.6 km (seeing that El Reg is a UK publication); or nautical miles = ca.1,8 km (seeing that space travel is a part of aviation, in a way)?

    Honest question, no polemics intended.

    (Note: I *am* aware of the *proper* El Reg units such as the linguine, and possibly the Naughtical Mile; but those are not at issue here.)

    1. John 62
      Headmaster

      Re: When El Reg says "miles"...

      When El Reg says miles, they really should be using London bus-lengths.

  28. Arachnoid

    So how long before it comes back?

    1. Pedigree-Pete
      Happy

      VGER 1 coming back....

      I'd guess about 35 years.

  29. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    IT Angle

    And the IT angle is...

    Well IIRC these are *serial* processors (either true 1 bit at a time or 1 4bit nybble at a time) in MSI CMOS.

    Also the *first* time NASA felt brave enough to make the RAM out of CMOS as well (previous vehicles used the rock solid and rock heavy core memory) wired *directly* to the RTG output

    All clocked at a brisk 4Khz. That is not a typo and yes that is less than the usual clock on either a digital watch or a pocket calculator.

    As for the tape recorders these are not the usual reel to reel type. The data is written in 1 direction and read *backwards* to be sorted out once received back on Earth. New Horizons mission to Pluto will be running at about 1kbs at that range so the data rate from Voyager is even lower.

    The Reed Solomon codes used to encode the data are a cousin of the ones used to cope with missing blocks on CD's. Different failure modes but a similar effect.

    Monitoring space probes, identifying faults (often from *very* limited telemetry channel data) and devising work rounds is very demanding NASA has developed substantial AI tools to do this. It can't hold a conversation but it can spot when things are out of whack, identify a list of what the causes *might* be and suggest work arounds IIRC.

    As for future probes. *if* the NASA work on "Quantum Vacuum Plasma Thrusters" work out we may be seeing the first *real* reactionless propulsion system. IE no *propellant* required.

    Which means with enough power and time *any* spot in the Solar System becomes potentially visitable by humans.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: And the IT angle is...

      "Quantum Vacuum Plasma Thrusters"

      Oh man, crank alert. Fat chance for success on that. Unfortunately this universe is boring and insists on conserving momentum. And as no-one knows what the "quantum vacuum" is, the math is gonna be dodgy in the extreme. Yes I looked at the presentation. It is extremely fishy. High-school algebra is supposed to illustrate that this idea has any merit?

      Nope.jpg

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: And the IT angle is...

        OH I agree the idea *sounds* nuts

        But then so does the Casimir effect (also an effect of the quantum vacuum) and that is both real and measured. Quantum entanglement still seems like voodoo to me yet people appear to be gearing up for it to be the SoA in high security data transmission.

        Dr White at NASA seems to be making progress on them. I would not have described the papers I've seen on the subject as "high school level."

        This was just a brief look to the future. Most of my post was about how Voyager does what it does and *keeps* doing it after 35 years.

  30. JeffyPooh
    Pint

    The probes will be traveling "forever..."

    It's been noted that humans tend to over-estimate future progress the the short and mid term ("Flying Cars by the year 2000", that sort of nonsense), and tend to under-estimate future progress in the long term ("In 200 years we'll have really nice 120-inch LED TVs", etc.).

    The implications of this on the Voyager space probes is as follows: In about 500 years, some kids (Earthlings) will discover a historical mention of these space probes on the Interweb Archive. They'll immediately hop into their personal space buggy, race out into interstellar space to find them and bring them back. The ultimate destination of these probes is not some distant star system, but to be disassembled and the parts stuffed under some idiot teenager's bed.

  31. Poeteye
    Alien

    TOPPING THE STAR CHARTS

    Voyager 1’s “The Sounds Of Earth”

    -- James Ph. Kotsybar

    Eleven billion miles from the sun

    a record, golden when it left these parts,

    a runaway hit on Voyager One,

    at Ophiuchus, sure to top the charts,

    will introduce Mozart to other stars,

    not to mention Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”.

    The knock-offs sold in alien bazaars

    will knock their socks off or at least it should

    make them extend their eyestalks in surprise.

    They’ll soon begin to learn to sing along

    to whales recorded and the baby’s cries —

    adepts might even master Earth’s birdsong.

    Should Beethoven not prove to be their fave,

    Then Guan PingHu’s GuQin could be their rave.

  32. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Pint

    Craftsmanship

    Something mostly absent in modern life. It seems the more complex things get, the less long they operate. NASA's recent Mars probes do reaffirm my faith though...

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