back to article Voyager suffers a power wobble as boffins start the final countdown for Spitzer

Welcome to this week's space roundup, with news of a hello to a resurrected instrument, a heart-stopping moment for an old friend and a final farewell to a teenage telescope. Voyager 2 gives Earthbound engineers a bit of a fright Something funny happened over the weekend as one of NASA's veteran Voyager probes inadvertently …

  1. spold Silver badge

    Yes but wow

    42 years and 18.5 billion kilometres.

    Don't make 'em like they used to.

    Probably needs an oil change.

    1. MJB7 Silver badge

      Re: Yes but wow

      43? It won't be 43 for another 7 months. (Well, if you count from launch date.)

    2. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

      Re: Yes but wow

      > Probably needs an oil change.

      Or at least some bifocals.

    3. quxinot Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Yes but wow

      Years?

      It hasn't circumnavicated the sun anything close to 40 times, nevermind more than that. Clearly the number of years is a small one!

      (Mind you, they're awfully long years!)

  2. MJB7 Silver badge

    Incredible

    42 year-old hardware, absolutely no way to perform a service, and Voyager 2 is *still* running!

    1. Christian Berger

      Re: Incredible

      Actually there were some firmware updates.

      1. defiler Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Incredible

        And a microcode patch for Spectre...

        1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

          Re: Incredible

          >And a microcode patch for Spectre...

          I saw a documentary on that - they were trying to turn Voyager into a space laser but luckily Sean Connery was able to stop them just in time.

    2. Dazed and Confused

      Re: Incredible

      > 42 year-old hardware, absolutely no way to perform a service, and Voyager 2 is *still* running!

      That's coz it's not running W10

      1. Unicornpiss Silver badge
        Pint

        W10

        "That's coz it's not running W10"

        Microsoft, which probably consisted of just Bill Gates and a couple of buddies at the time, if it even existed as a company at all in 1976 when the probes were being built, hadn't even yet considered ripping off the GUI from Apple, where Woz was still breathing solder fumes in a garage. And it would be some years yet before the Steves thought to steal it from Xerox, who had only just come up with it about 2-3 years prior. Ol' Bill was probably still working on Commodore BASIC for the first gen PET when the probes were being built..

        I still envision an alternate history where X86 was only a bit player and we're all using Commodore-compatible instead of IBM-compatible machines.

        1. M. Poolman
          Pint

          Re: W10

          "I still envision an alternate history where X86 was only a bit player and we're all using Commodore-compatible instead of IBM-compatible machines."

          And I thought it was only me - have a beer!

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: W10

            And Newcastle is the global leader in cheap 5G technology, being home to the mega corporation Huawei-Pet .

  3. Steve Kerr
    Pint

    Just wow

    I was just shy of my 9th birthday when Voyager 2 launched and it's still going now.

    I am gobsmacked at this achievement of longevity and still helping science.

    I honestly don't believe it would be possible for us to produce such an amazing piece of technology now.

    Beers because, those people that built it and still run it deserver free beer for life.

    1. Unicornpiss Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Just wow

      "I honestly don't believe it would be possible for us to produce such an amazing piece of technology now.

      Well, the Mars probes were and continue to be pretty robust. But I share your viewpoint. IMHO mostly because there is apparently a 2nd Moore's law that relates to bureaucracy and red tape, and we haven't yet topped out on how funding, people failing upwards, lack of communication, and other staples of management can destroy a project so fast that all that remains is the Cherenkov radiation from its abrupt cancellation.

      1. ILikeDrinkingBeer

        Re: Just wow

        I think there is also a corollary of the Peter Principle that applies to all engineering and design - every project, whether it be software, an OS, or a telecoms standard, is doomed to recieve one more feature addition or upgrade than is usable.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just wow

          " is doomed to recieve one more feature addition or upgrade than is usable."

          Otherwise known as "creeping featurism".

    2. ThatOne Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Just wow

      > I honestly don't believe it would be possible for us to produce such an amazing piece of technology now.

      I think we still could, but the bean counters would veto it. Manufacturers have simply removed the factor "robustness" from the equation because it was anti-commercial: If your car (or whatever other appliance) doesn't break down in a couple years, you won't buy a new one, and since many people feel the need to always have the latest and shiniest (to show off to the Joneses), nobody complains.

      As a result, all industries have unlearned to build robust, reliable things. Robustness is not a perk, it's a defect nowadays, it will literally lower your sales.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just wow

        "Manufacturers have simply removed the factor "robustness" from the equation because it was anti-commercial [...]"

        The Crosby Quality programme was often implemented by PHBs as meaning a design must not be "over engineered". This resulted in tight designs that could not be adjusted later for unforeseen complications or changed market requirements. Open-ended design was discouraged - even though it often proved to be the saving grace for a project.

  4. Blacklight

    Godspeed V'ger

    It might come back, you never know ;)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Godspeed V'ger

      That film continues to be underrated IMO.

  5. Bill Fresher

    Our solar system is all there is. The rest is an illusion. A shadow of our pasts and futures. Once Voyager reaches the limit of our space it will disappear.

    1. Just A Quick Comment

      Or it may bounce back from the rigid shell which contains our 'universe' (whatever that is) and may come heading back to Earth, beautifully synchronised so it enters a parking orbit, and can be collected and put on display.

    2. A. Coatsworth
      Alien

      It already crossed the Dome of the Fixed Stars, so it is probably peering into the universe's inner workings now.

      (Obligatory xkcd) https://www.xkcd.com/1189/

  6. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    It is amazingly designed. That it can make its own decisions about what to turn off and what to turn on to keep power draw low is really astounding. I’m sure we could design something today like it though. We wouldn’t use current technology of course in terms of processors - we would use something reliable and proven I’m sure.

    1. spold Silver badge

      Something Artificially Intelligent... it would be feeling depressed and cast-out by now, and would probably deliberately overload its own circuits.

  7. Jim Birch

    I told them to take some spare batteries.

    1. Dazed and Confused

      Re: I told them to take some spare batteries.

      For 42 years they might need quite a lot of spare batteries.

      For modern tech, it would need over 15,000 spare batteries at an average rate of needing a full re-charge everyday.

    2. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

      Those batteries would need at least a 42 year best-before date. If I bought them today the best-before would have to be > 2062!

  8. RegGuy1 Silver badge
    Pint

    SHIT my VPN went down...

    just as I selected Voyager 2 as the endpoint.

    Kudos to the team at NASA. We now know about the heliopause, and are getting real data from interstellar space. That and the data we are getting from ESA's Gaia telescope means we are learning so much about our galaxy that in 2000 you would never have thought possible!

    A beer to all that have made these projects happen!

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: SHIT my VPN went down...

      I went to a lecture last night given by one of the guys whose life's work so far has been working out what happens to these ugly bags of mostly-water when we take them away from Earth's gravity for weeks, months or years at a time. Will we even make it as far as Mars? How long can we stay there for? How long SHOULD we stay there for? Can we really have a permanent crewed base on the moon? Can we even bring crew back safely and plunge them suddenly into Earth's gravity after prolonged exposure to zero G? NASA are continuing to work on space exploration programmes many decades long. Gripping stuff.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: SHIT my VPN went down...

        "NASA are continuing to work on space exploration programmes many decades long."

        It would also be useful if politicians remembered that spaceship Earth also needs those considerations for its future as a meat-bag carrier. Trashing one planet before moving to another is short-sighted.

  9. Barrie Shepherd

    Great achievement

    An astounding technical and engineering achievement for the US.

    However how long before POTUS tweets it's all due to his Presidency, after all we all know Trump does the best probes, better than anyone else in fact.

  10. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Amazing feats of engineering, all of them!

    Doffs hat (grey Tilley once more) to all those involved

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