back to article Voyager 1 cracks yet another barrier: Now 150 Astronomical Units from Sol

Voyager 1, the first human-created object to leave our Solar System, has quietly knocked off another milestone: it’s now more than 150 Astronomical Units from our Sun. An Astronomical Unit is the distance from the Sun to Earth and has been defined as 149,597,870.7 km. At the time of writing NASA’s mission status page said …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Efer Brick

    Let's hope

    It's not forced to upgrade to Windows 10

    1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

      Re: Let's hope

      Windows 1.0 was released in 1985 (and MS-DOS in 1981) by which time Voyager 1 was long gone.

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Let's hope

        @Spherical Cow

        More proof that Voyagers design and engineering team were way ahead of their time!

  2. b0llchit Silver badge
    Alien

    Imagination and wishful thinking

    The 150 AU mark is essentially meaningless – there’s nothing out there to mark the distance.

    All those images on the internet explaining the probe's path indicate lines in space. Therefore, there must be some line out there. Are you sure that there is no 150 AU mark out there in the cold and dark? All those images indicate so many lines, which suggests that some kind of traffic control out in space may have been established(*).

    But I guess we all can agree that the longevity of the probe is a homage to engineering and science(**).

    (*) maybe it is for marking the intergalactic hyperspaceway?

    (**) maybe the Vogons can appreciate engineering and science when they find the necessary paperwork in triplicate under the gold disc.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Imagination and wishful thinking

      Perish the thought that the Vogons should find Voyager, they would probably wipe the disc, record some poetry onto it and send it back to Earth.

      (Along with a demolition notice)

      1. Sanguma Bronze badge
        Alien

        Re: Imagination and wishful thinking

        Nah, the Demolition Notice would be the poetry, and we'd all go mad trying to understand it and demolish Earth ourselves in the process. The Vogons have not got a lot of style, but they're eager pick-pokets, and will pick-pocket any idea that'll save them from doing any real work. Real work might stop them from shouting in peoples' ears, "Resistance is useless!!!"

    2. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

      Re: Imagination and wishful thinking

      Some of the lines on my street have worn away in the last 30 years, I expect the 4+ billion year old paint out there is pretty faded by now.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Imagination and wishful thinking

        I expect the 4+ billion year old paint out there is pretty faded by now.

        I had this vision of a (space) lichen encrusted marker stone, carved with a fancy arrow pointing back into the system and a seriffed font saying "Sol 13,943,337,109 miles, 2 furlongs".

    3. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: Imagination and wishful thinking

      What we must really be thankful for is that Voyager got past the line safely and did not crash into it. At those speeds, even a worn-out remnant can have a devastating impact.

    4. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Imagination and wishful thinking

      Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers.

    5. Unicornpiss Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Imagination and wishful thinking

      The 150AU mark is where the flat-earthers' maps say "Here be dragons!"..

    6. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Imagination and wishful thinking

      "Therefore, there must be some line out there."

      Yeah, a line of cones denoting where the hyperstatial by-pass is going.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Imagination and wishful thinking

      A big sign post with

      Earth ==>

      150 AU

  3. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Might be my brain but upon reading this article I just found myself earwormed by Gene Pitney singing "150AU from Tulsa"

    1. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

      What, not The Rolling Stones Brothers...

      ...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRc0yaMW7Mw

  4. UCAP
    Pint

    They don't build them like they used to

    Given the 1960's era technology in the Voyager spacecraft (they are basically modified Mariner spacecraft buses with a specialised payload), it just shows that some people back then really knew how to build something to last. Hats off, and raising a glass to all those on the Voyager programme over the decades.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Pint

      Damn right.

    2. DJV Silver badge

      Re: They don't build them like they used to

      Absolutely, and it's an interesting constrast to modern technology in that those producing the PDF in 2020 (that El Reg linked to) haven't figured out how to place the "Page X of 19" text slightly lower so that the line doesn't go right through it!

    3. PhilipN Silver badge

      Re: They don't build them like they used to

      Ditto.

      Similar point and may be apocryphal but when Rolls Royce were asked why, almost half a century later, they were still using a universal joint first developed in the ‘20’s in their cars’ rear axles, they answered sniffily that “Just because something is newer does not mean it is better.”

      1. UCAP
        Joke

        Re: They don't build them like they used to

        Another story about Rolls-Royce - probably an urban legend but funny never-the-less.

        Someone was touring Africa (probably in the 1950s) in their Rolls-Royce when it broke down. They managed to get it to a local garage, but the problem was initially beyond them - basically a critical part was broken and they had to fly the replacement out from the UK before the car was able to proceed on its journey. When the owner of the car returned to the UK he expected to find an invoice for the cost of the part its delivery to the back-end of no-where. No invoice, and none were sent to him over the next 6 months, so he contacted Rolls-Royce to find out what had happened. There response was to say that they had no record of the event, since "their cars simply do not break down".

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: They don't build them like they used to

          There was a time when Rolls had that attitude, John Dodd of Merlin engined Roller fame was the engineer of choice for my father when he had gearbox problems with his Rover Coupe.

          The Old man took his car to Dodds workshop only to be told 'I can't do the box for a few days, I have to fly to Brazil'.

          John Dodd was an accredited Rolls gearbox engineer, they flew him and another mechanic with a gearbox to Brazil to change a broken one for no charge to the owner for the reason stated.

          https://www.classicdriver.com/en/article/cars/john-dodd-and-merlin-engined-monstrosity-infuriated-rolls-royce

        2. DJV Silver badge

          Re: They don't build them like they used to

          Another (possible urban legend) is the story that a new Rolls driver took a friend out for a drive in his new toy. At some point the friend asked to see under the bonnet so they stopped on the side of a road that had other traffic passing along it. The bonnet was duly opened for a couple of minutes for the friend to take a quick gander at the insides. Then the bonnet was dropped and the journey continued.

          A few days later the driver received a call from Rolls Royce asking what the trouble was. When told he was only showing the friend the engine he was asked in no uncertain tones never to do that again in sight of others as RR didn't want the impression that their cars could ever break down.

          1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

            Re: They don't build them like they used to

            A prospective customer was looking into the boot of a Rolls Royce. "What's that for," he asked the salesman, pointing to a device mounted inside.

            "It's the emergency triangle," replied the salesman.

            "What is it used for?" asked the man.

            "You put it in the road to warn other road users in the event of a breakdown," the salesman explained.

            "But you told me that Rolls Royce never break down!" the man announced triumphantly.

            The salesman replied, "If you look under your shirt, sir, you will notice two nipples. Their purpose is to supply milk in the event that you were to have a baby."

      2. Ogi
        Pint

        Re: They don't build them like they used to

        > “Just because something is newer does not mean it is better.”

        True more often than not in my experience.

        Nowadays "Newer" tends to be a synonym for "More expensive, but built more cheaply". The desire to squeeze the most profit tends to this result, along with "engineered failure", which one of those travesties of the modern world that really get my goat.

        Pint, as its Friday, and the best weather for it!

      3. GlenP Silver badge

        Re: They don't build them like they used to

        Just because something is newer does not mean it is better

        Very true. We've got a nearly 10-year old label printer in one of our factories. The engineer himself advised us to keep it going as long as possible as, "The newer versions are all made out of plastic!"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: They don't build them like they used to

          We have some older Zebra label printers (105SL models) that are still going. I describe them as amour plated.

          We would still be using them, but the place has gone "paperless" - so they have been replaced by iPads

    4. steelpillow Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: They don't build them like they used to

      TBH that is a bit of a half-truth. Its design lifetime was a heck of a lot shorter. They built rock-solid so it would survive the Van Allen belts, cosmic rays, residual molecules and the occasional dust particle.

      What they never predicted was that during its design life, Earthbound technology would advance so much. Massive improvements in ground-based comms equipment, plus power-saving software upgrades, are the true secrets of its longevity.

      1. oldfartuk

        Re: They don't build them like they used to

        The Voyagers are built of OC 71 transistors and Post Office Type 3000 relays. Its simple robust rock solid technology. Its the components i built stuff out of when i was an electronics nerd in the 1970's. You cant beat it. Its Occams Razor in action

        1. Citizen99

          Re: They don't build them like they used to

          OC71 ? Luxury ! For me, Blue Spot and Red Spot (which I think were BTH screened-outs). Thermal runaway could sometimes be avoided.

    5. Unicornpiss Silver badge

      Re: They don't build them like they used to

      And it has a tape drive! I remember when we used to use tape drives for backups and had to often use a coat hanger to fiddle with the mechanism and occasionally my coworker would take the lid off to extract a tape that had gotten stuck or eaten. And these were only 5 years or so old..

      1. ridley

        Re: They don't build them like they used to

        Ay and they had to compensate for the torque of the tape drive starting when taking some shots of the plants.

  5. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Pint

    Probably it will be a bit flat when it catches up with you...

    But --->

  6. Just A Quick Comment
    Pint

    Oh, the days when things lasted more than a year...

    If only washing machines, phones, TVs etc were as well made today...! Well done to NASA and all concerned.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Oh, the days when things lasted more than a year...

      To be fair, for what NASA pay for spacecraft, you could either get a solid gold washing machine that would last for decades - or just buy a full-service launderette, and have the staff do yours.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh, the days when things lasted more than a year...

      "If only washing machines, phones, TVs etc were as well made today...!"

      Yesterday I asked a local paving company to quote for a "simple" base for my additional new 8' x 4' (2.4m x1.2m) wooden garden tool shed. The answer was "Hmm - three days work - about £1800 - but you'll have to wait until October".

      They did appear to want the job. I have heard others say that the base often costs more than the shed - in this case five times as much.

      My existing 8' x 6' wooden garden shed was erected on a gravel/paving slab base laid quickly by the shed supplier. It is still solid after 40 years.

      The real skill in any profession is knowing what is needed to meet the requirement. As Sir Lancelott Spratt said in a "Doctor" film - "It takes two years to learn how to go into the human body - and a life-time to learn when to stay out".

      1. toffer99

        Re: Oh, the days when things lasted more than a year...

        I need a new front door, and got a quote. £3,000 pounds! Noticing my jaw's rapid downward movement, the purveyor said indignantly "Well, it is made of wood!"

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Oh, the days when things lasted more than a year...

          That’s a fair price, if it’s sapient pear wood. Otherwise they can fuck off!

          1. John Jennings Bronze badge

            Re: Oh, the days when things lasted more than a year...

            Sentient pear wood - fixed it for you.

            Or perhaps Bocote or Lingum Vitae - not that you would use either for a door.

            Lignum Vitae is not used becasue so hard to work with - you cant glue it, barely cut it - and is so hard used to be used for thrust bearings on warships... Its an oil wood - self lubricating....

            Most wooden doors (oak/sepeele or similar hardwood) are actually cheaper these days than plastic ones... they can be worked on/adjusted with simple tools which any joiner worth his salt should be familiar with (a jack plane).

            1. hoola Bronze badge

              Re: Oh, the days when things lasted more than a year...

              Jack plane; what is one of those?

              They all use those power planers that don't actually work properly but do spray an impressive amount of shavings out for minimal input effort. They days of real hand tools that do a first class job appear to be long-gone with speed and power being paramount.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Oh, the days when things lasted more than a year...

                "[...] with speed and power being paramount."

                Probably with the speed/depth knob turned up to 11.

                Power tools can be very useful - although annoying when old expensive accessories are incompatible with a new drill of the same brand.

                My small cordless drill proves ideal under many conditions. It puzzled me why I could judge drilling vertical holes fairly accurately. Then I realised the design compensated for the heavy battery pack - to give a neutral force feedback to the hand when the drill was vertical. As always - bad design tends to be noticed - good design "just works".

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oh, the days when things lasted more than a year...

          Yeah - did you think wood grows on trees or something?

          Oh, hang on a mo....

  7. ThereBePirates

    Total feat of engineering

  8. Elledan Bronze badge

    Relics of the Space Age

    In some ways Voyager 1 & 2 are reminders of a very different time period: fresh from the successes of the Apollo missions and before the retreat to LEO. Back when people still had fantasies about moon colonies and human-crewed spaceships zipping through this solar system and beyond.

    It's hopeful that after decades of a hiatus in significant progress humanity now seems intent on moving beyond LEO once again. With currently Voyager 1 & 2 our only probes in outer space, and a few craft zipping on and around the Moon and Mars it will be a while before we can hope to recapture the spirit of the 1960s, let alone exceed our achievements of those decades.

    Politics aside, the achievements of the 1950s through the 1970s in rocketry and spaceflight didn't push just engineers to the limits of their skills, but also brought people together in very real ways that still last today. To have people from Earth exploring a body that is not part of Earth, and to which no nation can lay a claim. The photos of which brings back the sobering realisations of Sagan's 'Pale Blue Dot'. To accept the empty beauty of outer space as our probes' sensors explore it for the very first time.

    Just one of the many reasons to be grateful for the people who made the Voyager program possible and are keeping it running today. For reminding us humans of our exciting yet very humbling place in this vast universe.

    1. Paul Kinsler

      Re: Relics of the Space Age

      On the subject of which:

      Lessons learned from (and since) the Voyager 2 flybys of Uranus and Neptune

      Heidi B. Hammel

      More than 30 years have passed since the Voyager 2 fly-bys of Uranus and Neptune. I discuss a range of lessons learned from Voyager, broadly grouped into process, planning, and people. In terms of process, we must be open to new concepts: reliance on existing instrument technologies, propulsion systems, and operational modes is inherently limiting. I cite examples during recent decades that could open new vistas in exploration of the deep outer Solar System. Planning is crucial: mission gaps that last over three decades leave much scope for evolution both in mission development and ...

      https://arxiv.org/abs/2006.08340

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Relics of the Space Age

      You're being a bit of a grumpy old pessimist. Not that I dissapprove, that's surely the correct attitude to take to life for an El Reg Commentard - grey of beard, long of tooth, arthritic hands still firmly gripping their cattleprod...

      But nowadays we have the ISS, which definitely brings nations together in space. And I'd imagine that relations with Russia would be even worse without that link. Plus cooperation between them continuing into the lunar gateway.

      We've still got engineers pushing the envelope of available technologies - after all who'd have thunk 20 years ago that a private company (SpaceX) would launch a payload on 3 rockets glued together and then land all 3 separately for later re-use? 2 nicely synchronised back at Kennedy Space Centre and one on a barge in the middle of the ocean!

      We're living at the start of a new golden age of space research and technology.

      Then we've got the New Horizons probe off looking for a Kuyper Belt object or two to take a peek at, having had a good long ogle at Pluto. A whole fleet of rovers on Mars - and we've landed on comets.

      Not to mention all those lovely space telescopes. This very publication did a nice piece this week on the SOHO solar observatory. Hubble of course, with all those lovely images. But SOHO leads to my last point. Improvements in software don't get the glory, but they're the other technological leap that's revolutionising space science. SOHO was admittedly broken by cock-ups in software, so we need to be careful, but then it was also saved by new software development - as was Kepler - where the failure was mechanical, in the reaction wheels. That story was also covered well by El Reg.

      Also, not only are we in a golden age of space - but I think there's a better chance of it being sustainable. Britain cancelled Black Arrow because the commercial market told the government it didn't even want a single launch per year, and neither did the government. Nowadays governments are spending more on space, but lots of it is on capabilities and science rather than just glory. Plus we've got SpaceX, Blue Origin, RocketLab and all sorts of others - and a healthy constellation of satellites that someone is eventually going to offer to repair/refuel - and that's what I'd expect to be paying for the first commercial astronauts.

      1. Elledan Bronze badge

        Re: Relics of the Space Age

        I must apologise if my attitude came over as pessimistic. I will be the first to acknowledge and rejoice at the surge of new activity in the space sector, as I am fairly certain I also did in my original comment.

        Maybe it's just seeing the skeptical attitude that set in in the early 1970s, among the general public and politicians, with three ready-to-go Saturn V rockets and crew getting mothballed, the STS program only shuttling scientists to/from the ISS in LEO while the Russians did much the same with their 1960s rockets and capsules. It all felt like things had gotten stuck in a rut. Mind you, this with the disclaimer that I'm a child of the 90s, so I likely hit the right kind of interlude with the break-up of the USSR and no manned missions beyond LEO :)

        Since SpaceX kicked up the dust back in 2010 onward, things have definitely begun to look up. Most of all that the general public is enthusiastic again about what this 'space' thing could mean for them and humanity as a whole. I also love SpaceX's attitude towards rocketry and everything connected to it, with the kind of down-and-dirty engineering as was common in the early years of the Space Race. Meanwhile setting record after record, not the least of which being landing entire first stages while making it look easy.

        In that light I am absolutely optimistic about the future of humanity in space and I agree that this is like a second Space Age. I did however want to be thankful for those who have kept the 'torch' lit. Not just those behind the Voyager program, but also those with a vision beyond LEO :)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Elledan - Re: Relics of the Space Age

          You may be optimistic about the future of humanity in space but our race has clearly ran out of time.

          Instead of Star Trek we will be enjoying Soylent Green era. For a limited time of course.

        2. Sanguma Bronze badge

          Re: Relics of the Space Age

          FWIW, I was working as a volunteer in a community-run cybercafe in Chch NZ before the earthquakes demolished it, and a young chap comes in to do a bit of web surfing. He went straight to the Mars pictures then being beamed back by Spirit and Opportunity, and was clearly blown away by seeing another planet in the Solar System.

          There's still hope for the younger generation.

        3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Relics of the Space Age

          Elledan,

          I'm a bit young for the original space age. But as I started reading into my brother's sci-fi collection in my early teens (in the mid-80s), and then started building my own, it was becoming painfully obvious that I'd missed the boat. Books written in the early 70s by Niven and Pournelle were talking about developments in spaceflight dated in the 90s, a decade that was rapidly approaching and yet we were still in the era of space shuttles being new and the Soviets flying to Salyut 7 (and then Mir) on trusty old Soyuz workhorses.

          At 13, the year 2000 seemed like a lifetime away, even though it wasn't even 15 years. It was deeply disappointing. As an adult I came to accept it, that human spaceflight had stalled, and to take more of an interest in the new science we were gathering and the increasing sophistication of our various space probes. Which was fine, but not as cool as flying around in spaceships - and allowing me to dream of maybe being able to afford a trip up there myself.

          But now technology is accelerating again like it was in the 60s. There's lot of new and exciting stuff happening in human spaceflight, and all the great science. But this looks like it might be more sustainable too. Relying just on government is a risk, because priorities can suddenly change - or they can just run out of cash. The same can happen with the private sector of course - Bezos might get bored and take his money elsewhere, leaving the promise of Blue Origin unfulfilled. But Musk has turned SpaceX into something that's commercially viable - so even if he loses interest, it ought to have a chance of keeping going. And it has developed capabilities that mean the price of getting to space dropping incredibly low - such that spacecraft might genuinely become a mass-produced item. Which will do incredible things to cost, and therefore make more things possible, bringing in more money and creating a virtuous circle.

          I guess one downside is the risk. Even if we can reduce it, spaceflight is still incredibly dangerous (a similar risk to climbing Everest) - and as you do more of it, you increase the number of times you're rolling the dice until accidents become inevitable. It's one thing risking death to test a new ship or in pursuit of national prestige or for science or progress in spaceflight. It's a lot less attractive when that's just for the increased production of zero-gravity crysal widgets to make somebody's computer just a little bit faster. But I'm still pretty optimistic. Here's hoping for avoiding the disappointment that an earlier generation had to go through.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Relics of the Space Age

            "[...] spaceflight is still incredibly dangerous (a similar risk to climbing Everest)"

            Spaceflight has a way to go to match the commodity climbing of Mt Everest. In 1953 it may have still been incredibly risky - apparently not so much these days.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUHJyDjQIfA

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: Relics of the Space Age

              Lots of people climb Everest, though many don't actually go for the summit, as they're supporting other team members - or don't manage to acclimatise and get out of the higher camps before the weather changes. But I believe the death rate is still pretty high.

              Just looked it up quickly, took the first number I found (from National Geographic), which is a 1.2% fatality rate on the mountain. So for those who go for the summit it's going to be higher.

              Once you go above about 25,000ft you've got roughly 72 hours to live, unless you can get back below that altitude again - there's a reason it's called the death zone.

  9. Lars Silver badge
    Happy

    Light years

    It's a reminder of the fact that the nearest solar systems are light years away and we have managed 20 minutes in 45 years.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Light years

      The thought that struck me was that it's been on the go for 45 years and covered 22,290,082,734 km without any physical human intervention....yet only a few days ago a light came on in my 2-year old car to say that it was time for it's third service because it'd been driven 30,000 miles.

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: Light years

        To be fair, had those 30,000 miles have been driven coasting with the engine off, in a vacuum with nothing in contact with the road, your car would still be as good as new.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Light years

          Like a certain red Tesla Roadster currently en route to the orbit of Mars. The paint may suffer some UV fading and maybe some pockmarks from space dust, but the otherwise should pretty much remain in the condition it was when launched.

      2. oldfartuk

        Re: Light years

        Most modern washing machines are designed to last 100 cycles, ie one wash a week for two years, or 3.5 days operation. After that you just lucky.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Light years

          Don't be ridiculous. Anyone with babies, toddlers or, for that matter two or more kids still at home will be doing at least 2 or 3 washes per week. That means the average lifespan of a washing machine would be well under 12 months. That's not going to wash ion the EU where the minimum warranty period is 2 years and items must last "a reasonable time", which in the case of white goods will be 5 to 10 YEARS.

          Or are you in the US and is the 90 day warranty still standard practice?

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: Light years

          Most modern washing machines are designed to last 100 cycles

          You sure about that? Mine is >20 years old, even has the original hoses, and back at the time of Voyager's launch, I recall similar appliance lifetimes. I suppose it's how you define "modern" then...

    2. Peter X

      Re: Light years

      20 minutes hours in 45 years.

      But yeah - it does put it in perspective!

    3. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Light years

      Sorry it's hours of course.

      Fun in away that we who are 45 or older have travelled (around the sun) just sitting on this planet 42,297,801,621 km or almost twice the 22,439,680,605 km Voyager 1 has travelled in the same 45 years.

      No tiger in that tank, or am I mixing up something again.

  10. John Jennings Bronze badge

    at 151

    the thing will hit the wall that has all the stars painted on it.

    Seriously, though - this is one of mankinds marvels.

    1. UCAP

      Re: at 151

      Which could very well outlast mankind.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    out of range of Earth’s Deep Space Network

    this calls for a quote (abbreviated, mind you ;)

    The big GSV was already moving, rolling and twisting to point directly upwards out of the system.

    (...)

    It moved off, not especially quickly. Its Displacers had switched to pick rather than put now; in a matter of seconds they had snapped almost its entire fleet of smaller ships out of the system, their genuine yet deceptive delivery missions completed. Only the furthest, most massive vessels were left behind.

    The Sleeper Service accelerated smoothly away into the darkness, already well clear of the system. It began to Induct, flittering between inferior and superior hyperspace. Its apparent real-space velocity jumped almost instantly by a factor of exactly twenty-three. Again, the Yawning Angel was comforted to see, spot on. No unpleasant surprises. The superlifter Charitable View raced after the fleeing craft, its engines unstressed, energy expenditure throttled well back, also threading its way between the layers of four-dimensional space. The process had been compared to a flying fish zipping from water to air and back again, except that every second air-jump was into a layer of air beneath the water, not above it, which was where the analogy did rather break down.

    (...)

    Three hours, twenty-six minutes and seventeen seconds after setting off, the General Systems Vehicle Sleeper Service reached its nominal Terminal Acceleration Point. This was where it ought to stop gaining speed, plump for one of the two hyperspatial volumes and just cruise along at a nice steady velocity.

    It didn't. Instead it accelerated harder; that .54 figure zoomed quickly to .72, the Plate class's normal design maximum.

    (...)

    The Sleeper Service's acceleration factor had started to increase. Almost at the same time, it had exceeded its normal maximum sustainable velocity.

    Fascinated, appalled, terrified, the Yawning Angel listened to a running commentary on the other GSV's progress from its increasingly distant child, even as it started the sequence of actions and commands that would lead to its own near-instant departure. Twelve minutes early, but that couldn't be helped, and if people were pissed off, too bad.

    (...)

    The superlifter's continuous report went on: the Sleeper Service's acceleration kept on increasing slowly but steadily, then it paused, dropping to zero; the craft's velocity remained constant. Could that be it? It was still catchable. Panic over?

    Then the fleeing ship's velocity increased again; as did its rate of acceleration. Impossible!

    (...)

    Dear holy shit, if it was all engine even the superlifter wouldn't be able to keep up with it. The average Plate class could sustain about one hundred and four kilolights more or less indefinitely; a good Range class, which was what the Yawning Angel had always been proud to count itself as, could easily beat that by forty kilolights. A Cliff class superlifter was ninety per cent engine; faster even than a Rapid Offensive Unit in short bursts. The Charitable View could hit two-twenty-one flat out, but that was only supposed to be for an hour or two at a time; that was chase speed, catch-up speed, not something it could maintain for long.

    The Charitable View's tone had already turned from one of amusement to amazement, then bewilderment. Now it was plain peevish. The Sleeper Service was topping the two-fifteen mark and showing no signs of slowing down. The superlifter would have to break away within minutes if it didn't top-out soon. It asked for instructions.

    (...)

    The Sleeper Service went on accelerating. The superlifter Charitable View gave up the chase at two-twenty. It settled back to a less frenetic two hundred, dropping back all the time; even so it was still not a speed it could maintain for more than a few hours.

    The Yawning Angel topped out at one forty-six.

    The Sleeper Service finally hit cruise at around two-thirty-three and a half, disappearing ahead into the depths of galactic space. The superlifter reported this but sounded like it couldn't believe it.

    The Yawning Angel watched the other GSV race away into the everlasting night between the stars, a sense of hopelessness, of defeat, settled over it.

    (...)

    Two hundred and thirty-three thousand times the speed of light. Dear holy fucking shit. The Yawning Angel thought there was something almost vulgar about such a velocity. Where the hell was it heading for? Andromeda?

    1. Killing Time
      Pint

      Re: out of range of Earth’s Deep Space Network

      Seriously bad news for the Affront....

      Have a beer for the reference!

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: out of range of Earth’s Deep Space Network

        I still want to go to an Affront dinner party though. Eating with mini harpoons sounds fun. I was trained to avoid food theft by having 3 older brothers...

        1. Killing Time

          Re: out of range of Earth’s Deep Space Network

          Careful what you wish for, there would be even odds on you being a course or even a light snack ...

          Ghastly little Dwellers!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hope the last thing they do is set it to emit a carrier wave modulated with repeating prime numbers :D

    1. Graham Cunningham

      repeating?

      ever-increasing!

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: repeating?

        I doubt the CPU could manage that :-) At least not at any reasonable rate.

  13. Mike the FlyingRat
    Alien

    Will El Reg report when it hits one 'light day'?

    Currently it takes ~20 hours for communication to travel to or from the craft.

    How long until it takes 24 hours? aka 1 light day?

    Considering that this was built 45 years ago... if we were to build this craft today and launch it... would it also last at least 40-45 years?

    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Will El Reg report when it hits one 'light day'?

      If it is travelling at the same speed it averaged over the past 45 years, it will reach a 24 hour delay in 5 years ...

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Will El Reg report when it hits one 'light day'?

        The gravitational pull of the sun (and the rest of the solar system) is still slowly decelerating it, so it will take a bit longer.

  14. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Alien

    So when does Voyager 1 run into the "Truman Show" wall the aliens keep around our solar system?

    Just asking.

    1. Glen 1 Silver badge

      Re: So when does Voyager 1 run into the "Truman Show" wall the aliens keep around our solar system?

      I am reminded of a Scifi story where a space probe travelling outside of the simulated volume caused an overflow....

      1. timrowledge

        Re: So when does Voyager 1 run into the "Truman Show" wall the aliens keep around our solar system?

        Almost certainly not the story you’re thinking of, but sounds rather like Brin’s “The crystal spheres”.

        1. Sanguma Bronze badge

          Re: So when does Voyager 1 run into the "Truman Show" wall the aliens keep around our solar system?

          Reminds me of one of Stephen Baxter's shorter stories, from his Manifold series. And one of Greg Egan's novels, Quarantine.

  15. HildyJ Silver badge
    Pint

    A Journey

    Unlike most space probes the Voyagers were never intended to have a destination. They did their science on the way to the Great Beyond with the knowledge that they would be on an unending journey.

  16. nojava

    Won't you come home Bill Bailey?

    Time to turn around and come home before your lost.

  17. Ashto5

    Just Plain Amazing

    What else is there to say ?

  18. sinsi

    DOWN SIGNAL

    SOURCE VOYAGER 1

    TYPE CARRIER

    DATA RATE 160.00 b/sec

    FREQUENCY 8.42 GHz

    POWER RECEIVED -155.86 dBm (2.59 x 10-22 kW)

    source: https://eyes.nasa.gov/dsn/dsn.html

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      POWER RECEIVED -155.86 dBm (2.59 x 10-22 kW)

      KW? Is that for standard comparison with other signals? Or should it be 2.59 x 10-19 W

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Futurama - Voyager on a windshield

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVgP1LxhKMU

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020