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Space Science

Twin Voyager Probes 25 Years In Flight 16

Posted by timothy
from the why-stop-now dept.
pbranes writes: "CNN has an article discussing the 25th anniversary of both of the Voyager spacecraft and what the next few years hold for the spacecraft. Scientists believe that they can maintain contact with the spacecraft for at least 20 more years, and they hope that the spacecraft passes the heliopause, the boundary for interstellar space, during this time." We've mentioned the long-term prospects of these probes before; it's not long until they may meet Termination Shock.
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Twin Voyager Probes 25 Years In Flight

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  • by Naatach (574111) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @11:10AM (#4070213)

    Ok, it's a slow day at work... The Voyager 1 probe has traveled roughly 7.8 billion miles from Earth.

    If you were commuting every work day around 25 miles each way, plus an extra 50 on the weekends(assuming current day prices and vehicles):

    You would have had to work for 500,000 years before retiring to drive this far.

    You would have had to have used roughly 260 million gallons of gas (around $390 million).

    You would probably have to buy around 52,000 vehicles before retirement. This would run you somewhere in the range of $936 million.

    You would need 2.6 million oil changes (unless you procrastinate like me and do it only every 8-10K miles, in which case, you would only need around 870,000 oil changes.) This would set you back around $52 million.

    The repairs the the vehicles could run you anywhere from $100 - $156 million, (not including the towing costs... Zoikes!)

    If you chose to do it as one long road trip (assuming 8 hours rest per day), it would take you around 21,370 years. To the above costs, you would have to add the $52 to $100 million in road munchies.

    • Or, you could just buy a German car and completely eliminate the car replacements / repairs. (Mine is at 2.5 billion miles and counting, no major repairs)

      You could use the Autobahn too (Trim a couple of hundred thousand years off the trip).

      Of course, you'd need to crank up the amount of caffeine you have in your system, so your munchie budget would have to increase.
  • The Times has a nice writeup of the upcoming anniversary.

    It can be found here. [nytimes.com]
  • hope? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mt._Honkey (514673) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @03:54PM (#4072076)
    Scientists believe that they can maintain contact with the spacecraft for at least 20 more years, and they hope that the spacecraft passes the heliopause, the boundary for interstellar space, during this time.
    So they don't know if they will pass the heliopause during these 20 years? I assume that they know exactly where the probes are, so they must not know where the heliopause is. Does anybody know anything about this?
    • Re:hope? (Score:4, Informative)

      by redcliffe (466773) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @08:57PM (#4073851) Homepage Journal
      They know they are close, but they don't know how close. They know this because when the radiation from a solar flare went past each probe, they looked at the time it took to get between voyager 1 and 2. Then a short time later they heard the radio noise of the solar flare hitting the heliopause. This tells them that they aren't very far away.
    • Re:hope? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by hubie (108345) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @09:46AM (#4076329)
      They can only infer where the heliopause is. One way is by looking at things like MHD distrubances (i.e., magnetic shockwaves created by events on the Sun) that travel out and are reflected at the heliospere boundary (as the other poster mentioned); however, all they have at this point are computer models that suggest where it might be. The computer models over the last several decades have shown where the boundary will be, but the researchers have to keep revising the models every time the spacecraft passes the predicted boundary. If I recall correctly, the first prediction in the 60's (by Eugene Parker) expected the boundary somewhere about 5 AU or so, and the expected distance has been increasing ever since (I think it is up in the 100-150 AU range).

      Some researchers have suggested that the heliopause might not be a well defined boundary and we might not notice passing through it for a while.

      By the way, it is a very tough problem developing a detailed 3D model of the heliosphere when pretty much all your measurements are either inferred or taken mostly at 1 AU in the ecliptic plane (where Ulysses, the Pioneers, and the Voyagers are the exceptions). Even with the measurements the models are still very complicated and take quite a long time to run.

  • Yes, but will it come back looking for The Creator in a couple hundred years?
  • Has anyone considered whether the probes will even make it safely past the Oort cloud ?
    Seems navigating that obstacle course (of course, navigation isn't the word, it'll be pure luck at this point) would be of more concern.
    • Re:Termination shock (Score:3, Informative)

      by hubie (108345)
      I believe that even though there are supposed to be very many objects in the Oort cloud, as with the asteroid belt the objects are so spread out that the odds of hitting anything are very small. This is also assuming that the Oort cloud exists, and if so, whether it is as populated as expected.
  • I communicate with it every night.
  • Impressive, indeed. Especially, maybe, considering the very weak signal this transmits to earth. Hopefully they will reach and pass the heliopause and reach interstellar space.

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