back to article Voyager mission's project scientist retires after 50 years of service

The Voyager mission's project scientist has retired after 50 years in the job. Ed Stone signed on for the gig when the two Voyager spacecraft were still on the drawing board in 1972. He's had the job ever since. As NASA explained, Stone rose to become director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and, as …

  1. Tom 7


    He's just not going to be paid for his work now. I hope he enjoys it more!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When I started, lad, we 'ad to piss in bucket to make oxidiser for rockets

    There was no nipping down the off-license for some liquid oxygen in those days

    1. UCAP Silver badge

      Bucket? You had a bucket? You rich bugger; when I was a lad we 'ad no bucket, we 'ad to piss into the fuel tanks and hope we were hitting the right one.

      1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

        You had fuel tanks? Luxury!

        We 'ad t' strap 'selves t' side o' rocket and 'ang on as best we could!

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Straps? What sort of soft bugger 'as straps?

          1. Steve K



            We ad t’fart us selves into orbit

            1. bazza Silver badge

              Re: Rocket

              Fart? Pah, we ad t make do with one small can of beans past its eat by date, clench to create igher pressure an greater impulse, and squeak ar selves out of this atmosphere. In the rain.

              [from pulses to impulses. I'll get my coat]

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Rocket

                Try and tell the young people of today that ... they won't believe you!

    2. Anonymous Coward
  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    And they say jobs for life

    are a think of the past...

    A pint is in order, I feel, but for some reason this browser doesn't offer the option.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: And they say jobs for life

      Well, this is NASA, not IBM. It was also fortuitous that the project was transferred along with him, though maybe that was on purpose. It was a side gig for a while.

      Great work, NASA never ceases to amaze me. (and I'll hand out a pint on your behalf as well)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And they say jobs for life

        Actually, cunning bean counters at NASA realised that if they just keep them on the payroll, you never actually have to make any pension payments.

  4. tip pc Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Quantifying the price for redundancy

    It’s amazing how long these nasa space systems have survived past their expected life.

    Building these things with durability in mind has undoubtedly saved billions in additional launches and spacecraft.

    That said the observations returned have undoubtedly spawned additional missions.

    Many NASA missions have lived long past their expected duty cycles.

    I wonder if future missions will have the same Durability especially as we all know that costs extra.

    Well done NASA for having the temerity to succeed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Quantifying the price for redundancy

      "I wonder if future missions will have the same Durability especially as we all know that costs extra."

      NASA was on a "faster, better, cheaper" kick for a while. One take on how that worked is at:

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Quantifying the price for redundancy.. thats mil spec for you

      Back in the 1970's and 1980's all the components used in those spacecraft would have been mil-spec. And given the very high radiation environments the spacecraft had to work in (not near earth) this meant the components used would have been the same as the ones used in the rockets that went bang. After traveling 8,000 miles. So given the exceptionally high tolerances those components were built to, you really did not want the rockets that go bang going bang too early, its not that surprising that the spacecraft lasted decades.

      Saying that, the on the fly updating of the onboard software to work around stuck bits in memory is still the most impressive pieces of bit-twiddling I have heard of. As someone who has been bit twiddling since the decade the first probe was launched.

      1. Bartholomew

        Re: Quantifying the price for redundancy.. thats mil spec for you

        > all the components used in those spacecraft would have been mil-spec

        Now I find myself trying to picture a mil-spec 8-Track.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Quantifying the price for redundancy.. thats mil spec for you..spy sat spec..

          That recorder would have been based on technology used by the recorders used on the early generation of NRO spy satellites. Before they had down-link capability. So had to be very long life (relatively speaking) in a high radiation environment.

          Saying that most car 8 track players were pretty indestructible. Very different from the early fragile car cassette players.

    3. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: Quantifying the price for redundancy

      What makes you think that these projects were "expected" to fail earlier? These objects were designed to fly past planets and then exit the solar system The lifetime of the power source was known and easily calculated when it was chosen. The path and the gold plate have design lifetimes in the multi-millennium.

  5. Fred Daggy Silver badge

    Nobel Prize

    Can the Nobel Prize be awarded to a team? Because this team definately deserve one. Each.

    One of the finest achievements of humankind.

    1. Irony Deficient

      Can the Nobel Prize be awarded to a team?

      For the Physics prize, there have only been individual recipients to date, although in many years the prize has been split been multiple persons; e.g. in 1903, Becquerel and the Curies split the prize, but I don’t know if Becquerel and the Curies ever worked as a unified team (the Curies themselves did, of course).

  6. ThatOne Silver badge

    To boldly go where no man has gone before

    > "It has been a remarkable journey"

    Indeed. No need to say more...

    1. Steve K

      Re: To boldly go where no man has gone before

      In due time (hopefully following a long and happy retirement) that should go on Ed Stone’s headstone

  7. alain williams Silver badge
  8. Mike 125


    In the gamut of inspirational careers, sending your baby into space is right up there.

    For engineers, it beats going to space, hands down.

    Ed Stone would have had a sharp rejoinder for Buzz Aldrin.

  9. hammarbtyp

    Old code just keeps on rolling

    and I thought I had legacy code issues

  10. chivo243 Silver badge

    Only one to hold the position!

    That's cool, but for 50 years! That's extra cool!

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Only one to hold the position!

      It's sort of a shame they've appointed a replacement.

      They could promote his deputy to the new role of first deputy chief project scientist and never have a chief again.

  11. RosslynDad
    Thumb Up

    The Interstellar Age

    I recommend you read "The Interstellar Age" by Jim Bell about the Voyager missions. A great read and it makes pretty clear that Ed Stone is revered within the team.

  12. Red Ted
    Thumb Up

    160bps is the downlink...

    ...and it's a whopping 16bps for the uplink!

    You can see which the Deep Space Network is talking to in real time. At the time of writing Canberra is talking to Voyager 2, with a round trip time of 1.52days!

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: 160bps is the downlink...

      Dang, signal strength -151.02 dBm (7.90 x 10-22 kW) - > 0.79 attoWatt... That's not a lot of power to work with. And I noticed Madrid was listening to Voyager 1 earlier at -160 dBm. Those radio telescopes are a marvel in themselves.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: 160bps is the downlink...

        "0.79 attoWatt"

        Detecting an aW is impressive. Pulling one out of that noise level, more so. Then doing something useful with it is just ridiculous.

    2. Antonius_Prime

      Re: 160bps is the downlink...

      Still faster than some of the copper speeds foisted off on rural Ireland from the national provider...

  13. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Thanks Prof Stone

    When I was a student, and secretary of the Uni Maths Society, I stole an official sheet of paper and envelope and wrote to Ed Stone at JPL asking him for some information and photographs from the mission as it passed Jupiter. He sent me about a dozen pictures.

    Thanks, Prof Stone, I hope you have an excellent retirement.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    No glory, just satisfaction

    Ed Stone never got the glory we give to astronauts or the fame we give to science explainers.

    All he got was the satisfaction of a job well done. And I bet that means more to him than any of the above.

  15. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge


    "Voyager 1 is now nearly 22 light hours from Earth, and Voyager 2 is eighteen hours and fifteen minutes away by radio."


    22h - 97,200 seconds - 0.9167 days - 0.0208 Truss

    18h 15' - 65,700 seconds - 0.7604 days - 0.0173 Truss

  16. Bergmotiva2

    Edward Stone Retires After 50 Years as NASA Voyager's Project Scientist. Ed Stone in 2019, in front of a scale-model of the Voyager spacecraft at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Stone's remarkable tenure on NASA's longest-operating mission spans decades of historic discoveries and firsts.

  17. Marty McFly Silver badge

    Salute to a long career!

    And don't worry about the space probes. I have it on good authority they will be back.

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