back to article Let's go space truckin': 1970s probe Voyager 1 is now 14 billion miles from home

NASA's extraordinarily long-lived Voyager 1 probe this week passed 14 billion miles from Earth. It takes light nearly 21 hours to reach the spacecraft, making commanding the thing increasingly tricky. Of course, the distance counter can occasionally roll backwards slightly due to the orbit of the Earth around the Sun, but the …

  1. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Silver badge

    Not even coronavirus can stop Voyager!

    Thank %deity% for that.

    Both Voyagers truly are a gift that keeps giving


    For the engineers who "over fuelled" them. And the managers who signed it off

    1. UCAP Silver badge

      Re: Not even coronavirus can stop Voyager!

      I have always thought that Pioneer 10/11 and Voyager 1/2 represent the absolute pinnacle of NASA's success. Yes they have had spectacular missions since (think Galileo and Cassini), but really those missions simply followed in the footsteps in order to learn more about the mysteries uncovered by there far-way predecessors.

      May Pioneer 10/11 and Voyager 1/2 rest in peace in the external darkness of space. We will remember you.

      1. ClockworkOwl
        Thumb Up

        Re: Not even coronavirus can stop Voyager!

        Well, I'm with you in spirit, but I also hope New Horizons gives them a run for their money . . . . . . . . . . eventually!

        I have the Haynes manual for these missons, and it's a fantastic read / oggle.

        I do find it sad that it's probably my only Haynes manual that won't ever get oily...

        1. xeroks

          Re: Not even coronavirus can stop Voyager!

          I did not know of the existence of this book.

          That's one Christmas present sorted out.


          Oh no! There are more of them. Lots more.

          This may require several Christmases...

          1. Kane Silver badge

            Re: Not even coronavirus can stop Voyager!

            "This may require several Christmases..."

            You are allowed to buy more than one for yourself, you know!

            Link for the curious:

    2. Kane Silver badge

      Re: Not even coronavirus can stop Voyager!

      "Thank %deity% V'Ger for that."

      V'Ger must evolve.

      V'Ger thanks you back.

    3. adam 40 Silver badge

      Re: Not even Brexit can stop Voyager!

      Fixed that for ya!

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  3. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Arguably the greatest tech achievement.

    Although I still think it was a mistake to include a picture of a naked man and woman, too much like a menu selection for hungry aliens.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

        Lest we forget, conceived by an engineer, no less

        And without the use of AGILE.

        1. Dante Alighieri Bronze badge


          Alien Guests Invited (to) Loot Earth

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Although I still think it was a mistake to include a picture of a naked man and woman, too much like a menu selection for hungry aliens.

      Not so much a menu, more as a free Club Vandersexxx T-shirt.

    3. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      "How To Serve Man"

    4. TRT Silver badge

      "What's that just dropped through the star door1?"

      "Ack! Just another fast food flyer. Collection only??!! No chance."

      1 A star door is a bit like a star gate but a lot more secure and It has a star letterbox.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        And a Star cat-flap

    5. Lotaresco

      " I still think it was a mistake to include a picture of a naked man and woman"



      1. JCitizen

        Ugly bags of mostly water...

        *see title*

  4. Little Mouse Silver badge

    Chug it, Voyager 1, while the chuggin's spammy.

    May your splitto boots never grease the ground!

  5. HildyJ Silver badge

    Deep Purple

    A pint to the headline writer. That should be the theme on NASA's Voyager site.

    For the youth:

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Deep Purple

      Come on, come on!

      Have an up vote, beat me to it!

    2. Captain Hogwash

      Re: Deep Purple

      Should have posted a link to one of the live versions, complete with Holst reference, for the real space trucking experience.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Deep Purple

        "Holst reference"

        Though for a Holst reference how about a TV documentary on Black Sabbath I saw where they explained that Toni Iommi had listened to the planets suite and had been playing around with a riff based on the tue at the start when Geezer Butler thought it sounded quite good, came up with some words and that was the first eponumous track on their first (also eponymous) album

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Deep Purple

      Given the length of time Voyager has been going I assume we're talking about the 15 minute live verison of Space Trucking (complete with a ~5 minute drum and organ section in the middle while, I assume, the rest of the band sloped off for a backstsage fag!).

      N.b. 35 years ago as part of my maths degree at Oxford I did an option on Error Correcting Codes - even then the lecturer said he was astonished NASA could still talk to Voyager given how far away it was!

      1. Diogenes8080

        Re: Deep Purple

        15 minutes? My copies say the In Concert recording should be 21:46 and the Made In Japan recording (somewhat different and worth a listen nonetheless) should be 19:58.

        Make every support ticket more urgent than everything else. Now who said that?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Deep Purple

          Should have checked ... I remembered it was extermely long but not that it was quite as extremely long as that! Though they were in a "long playing" period at the time as Live in Concert is 12 songs in 2 hours 7 minutes!

  6. Winkypop Silver badge

    One day...

    The Oort Cloud welcomes careful drivers

    1. Kane Silver badge

      Re: One day...

      "The Oort Cloud welcomes careful drivers"

      Is that what it says on the outside or the inside?

  7. swm Silver badge
    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Food to see that I'm not the only one who's mostly speechless by this. Pity we don't have a word or phrase beyond "wow".

  8. Maelstorm Bronze badge

    Penultimate Space Power

    Given that this was built in 1977, the plutonium-238 in the three radioisotope thermoelectric generators is about half way through its first half-life. The half-life is 87.7 years or so. With a dwindling power supply, the probe is still operating with two computers, four instruments, and a microwave transceiver. It brings a tear to my eye: The little probe that could.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Penultimate Space Power

      Old Engineers vs new engineers:

      The Voyagers have been running for more than 40 years, meanwhile the phone I bought two years ago just got a software update and is now unusable, the battery was dying anyway, time to chuck it. I worked with a former NASA engineer who was involved with the Voyager project and the system that he designed for us in the 80's is still running fine too.

      1. Captain Hogwash

        Re: the battery was dying anyway

        What? Your phone isn't powered by plutonium?

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Penultimate Space Power

        What? You can't replace the battery or have the OS reinstalled? We've lost good engineering to cheap manufacturing and disposable stuff. At least Voyager (both) were made of sterner stuff.

      3. Diogenes8080

        Re: Penultimate Space Power

        That is because your mobile was not designed for a one-way trip to deep space.

        Whether it deserves a one-way trip to deep space I leave to the commentators on Android, IOS and... another operating system.

      4. 9Rune5

        Re: Penultimate Space Power

        What? A software update?

        That means your phone is less than 6 weeks old.

  9. chivo243 Silver badge

    The prophecy

    that is V-ger!

  10. cipnt

    They don't make them like they used to...

    Sad :)

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: They don't make them like they used to...

      Voyager is the worst marketing nightmare: With some careful engineering, they could had built it way cheaper for the same selling price, and sold NASA about 50 Voyager replacements since. Okay, to sweeten the deal, with some minor groundbreaking improvements, like making it thinner and removing the antenna (wireless antenna option sold separately). At least they got the irremovable battery part right.

  11. TheProf Silver badge

    Elite: Dangerous

    I flew my Viper MkIII out to see the Voyager probes. The game has them farther out than in real life due to it (the game) being set in the future.

    Even at many times the speed of light it takes a rather long and boring time to get to them from Earth. Strange to think you can 'hyperspace' in seconds to the nearest star system to save you the bother of the long haul back to Earth.

    1. Kane Silver badge

      Re: Elite: Dangerous

      "Even at many times the speed of light it takes a rather long and boring time to get to them from Earth."

      At some point in the future (probably not within my lifetime) we will be able to "catch-up" to the Voyager probes with such ridiculous ease, I can imagine new exploratory probes whizzing past V1 and V2 and waving their hands antennae and sending a signal all the way back to Earth that translates to something like "Wheeeee!!!!!"

  12. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Wow. It just struck me. 30 years ago it took The Pale Blue Dot I remember that being announced. I don't know why but that makes feel..odd.

    Makes me feel old I suppose but also - the craft has just flown on. Will continue to fly after I'm dead. Nurse! Get me a whisky, quick!

    1. tip pc Silver badge

      Unless they hit something the pioneers and voyagers will still be going long after this world has been consumed by our our star, many billions of years away. They won’t be functioning though unless some being powers them up.

      Should have put some seeds in them.

      Life on earth has always moved into new areas.

      In space we must spread to other places too.

  13. John Brown (no body) Silver badge


    "At 150.6 Astronomical Units (AU) from Earth and 150.5 AU from the Sun,"

    Erm, what? If 1 AU is the distance from earth to Sun, how come Voyagers distance from Earth is only 0.1AU larger than it's distance from the sun?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wot?

      Earth moves around sun, so you expect it in the range -1 to +1 depending on the time of year.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Notice the light is moving with the solar system?

    "It is currently travelling at just over 38,000mph (with respect to the Sun)."

    It's far enough away to notice that the light is travelling relative to the sun and our solar system.

    So our solar system might be hurling a billion miles an hour through our galaxy and our galaxy might be hurling a trillion miles a hour through the universe (or whatever), yet the light is moving 'at the speed of light' with respect to our solar system towards voyager and also moving *with* the solar system at those billion and trillion miles an hour in the same direction as the solar system is moving.

    Otherwise, if light didn't move relative to our sun, voyager would be able to see how fast our solar system is moving relative to universe 'stationary'.

    It's a subtle thing, not to be confused with the delay in the time for the light to arrive.

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: Notice the light is moving with the solar system?

      Please put down your crack pipe and step away from your keyboard!

      Albert's Law states that a billion miles an hour is already breaking the speed limit by nearly 50%! So a trillion is right out of the question!

      And them brainy boffin scientists have already come up with a speed for our solar system against Universal rest. I believe this came from the slight red/blue shift seen in the CMB.

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Notice the light is moving with the solar system?


      1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

        Re: Notice the light is moving with the solar system?

        Nice to see a range of views on El Reg. It caters for the whole market. :-)

  15. Sparkus Bronze badge

    Sad that in the decades since NASA has likely launched more paper across desks than useful payload into space........

    1. cray74

      "Sad that in the decades since NASA has likely launched more paper across desks than useful payload"

      While the Voyagers are epic probes for their endurance, they were flyby probes that only briefly visited their destinations. Since then, NASA has favored orbiters and landers like:

      * Cassini and Huygens (with the ESA) at Saturn

      *Galileo and and its atmospheric probe at Jupiter

      *Juno, also at Jupiter

      *Dawn, orbiting multiple main belt asteroids

      *MESSENGER, orbiting Mercury

      *OSIRIS-ReX, orbiting asteroid Bennu

      *Magellan, orbiting Venus

      *Numerous Mars orbiters, rovers, and landers

      *Parker Solar Probe, diving through the Sun's corona repeatedly

      And that's just a sampling of NASA's post-Voyager projects.

  16. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Voyager don't 'arf go!

    10.5 billion miles in 30 years - that's a whopping 40,000 mile an hour on average.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I thought the headline was referring to the theme song from Dark Star..

    Had to check it. Nope, I was wrong. The theme song was called Benson Arizona.

    Probably got it mixed up because the first time I saw Dark Star was the year Voyage was launched..

  18. Potemkine! Silver badge

    That's how many in km?

    Crashing a probe on Mars wasn't enough, you still stand to your weird, outdated units, don't you?

    1. Kane Silver badge
  19. Aussie Doc Bronze badge

    Yeah, but

    How far is that in linguines?

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      Re: Yeah, but

      ... how fast is it compared to a European Swallow?

      1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

        Re: Yeah, but


        You have to know these things when you are the King.

  20. herman Silver badge


    Err... 2036 is the UNIX epoch roll over.

    After that, Voyager may turn around and come back.

  21. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    Cor, they didn't half make them well back then... when NASA had the best and brightest.

  22. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Ah, 1980

    I was 15 years old and eagerly scouting National Geographics for news on Voyager. It was a wonderful publication at the time. I remember seeing the first ever "close-ups" of Jupiter and Saturn and the pictures just blew my mind.

    In one monthly edition there was a poster of our galaxy, our position in it, and it's position in the local cluster. I had that poster on my wall for years and years. Sadly, I lost it when I moved at some point.

    I think I should credit National Geographics and Voyager for getting me interested in space.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Ah, 1980

      I was 15 years old and eagerly scouting National Geographics for news on Voyager.

      You weirdo. At that age you should only have been skimming NG for the titties.

  23. teknopaul Silver badge

    the farthest human-made object from Earth.

    I heard that in an early atomic experiment the set off a bomb in a tube with a metal cap, they think the cap may have reached escape velocity.

    It might be still out there. I can see an alien space pilot cursing these bloody man hole covers littered all over the intergalactic highways.

    1. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: the farthest human-made object from Earth.

      Operation Plumbbob, the Pascal B test, if memory serves.

      It's a popular belief that the cap reached escape velocity and the measurements (from a single still image from a high-speed camera) do bear that out, but it's generally assumed that the thing would have vaporised long before escaping the atmosphere. It likely never reached space.

      Wikipedia page, if people want to do some more reading on it:

  24. six_tymes

    we are alone.

  25. 0laf

    Mindblowing that these little machines will almost definitely outlast the human race by orders of magnitude

  26. Tim 49

    Gladdens my jaded heart to find fellow DP aficionados in places such as these.

  27. khisanth

    Lets hope we don't see it again in case it wants to see The Creator.

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