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Ulysses Spacecraft Not Dead Yet 78

Posted by kdawson
from the it's-chilly-out-there dept.
iminplaya sends in the good news that reports of the death of the Ulysses mission are premature. (We've discussed the impending shutdown of the 17-year-old mission a couple of times this year.) Ulysses is a joint NASA / ESA mission to study the sun from an orbit inclined almost 90 degrees from the ecliptic. From the Planetary Society blog post: "Ulysses is not dead yet. ESA issued a statement in February saying that, as Ulysses' radioisotope thermoelectric generators were running out of power, the spacecraft would likely die some time this year. The actual death blow to the spacecraft was likely to be the freezing of hydrazine fuel in a cold spot in a fuel line. Mission controllers found creative ways to prevent the freezing, but the solution was not a long-term one, and ESA had a ceremonial send-off and wrap-up of the mission in mid-June, announcing that the spacecraft would be shut down on July 1. However, it now appears that announcement was premature. ESA issued a statement on July 3 titled 'Ulysses hanging on valiantly.' And on Wednesday, the [Ulysses mission operations manager indicated] that Ulysses' voyage could actually continue for some time."
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Ulysses Spacecraft Not Dead Yet

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  • At least not until Netcraft confirms it.

    And maybe not even then ...

  • by morari (1080535) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @05:50PM (#24166921) Journal

    It'll probably return after twenty years or so, Poseidon be damned!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 12, 2008 @06:15PM (#24167119)

      An appropriate poem [utoronto.ca] for a dieing spacecraft.

      Come, my friends,
      'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
      Push off, and sitting well in order smite
      The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
      To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
      Of all the western stars, until I die.
      It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
      It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
      And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
      Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
      We are not now that strength which in old days
      Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
      One equal temper of heroic hearts,
      Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
      To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

      • A dieing spacecraft is a spacecraft working in a factory?

      • Well that certainly beats the lines I was going to post:

        Ulysses, Ulysses, soaring through all the galaxies, in search of Earth, flying into the night!
        Ulysses, Ulysses, fighting evil and tyranny with all his heart and with all of his might!
        Ulysseee-eee-eees, no-one else can do the things you do!
        Ulysseee-eee-eees, like a bolt of thunder from the blue!
        Ulysseee-eee-eees, always fighting all the evil forces, bringing peace and justice to all!

        It's me Nono, small robot you know, friend of Ulysses!
        Uly-
      • Dante, Inferno, Canto 26

        Written over 700 years ago and still brilliant. This is just a small extract:

        "O frati", dissi "che per cento milia
        perigli siete giunti a l'occidente,
        a questa tanto picciola vigilia
        d'i nostri sensi ch'è del rimanente,
        non vogliate negar l'esperienza,
        di retro al sol, del mondo sanza gente.
        Considerate la vostra semenza:
        fatti non foste a viver come bruti,
        ma per seguir virtute e canoscenza''.
        Li miei compagni fec'io sì aguti,
        con questa orazion picciola, al cammin

    • Ulysses S. Grant died at 8:06 a.m. on Thursday, July 23, 1885, at the age of 63 in Mount McGregor, Saratoga County, New York. His last word was a request, "Hydrazine."

      • by pharwell (854602)

        Ulysses S. Grant died at 8:06 a.m. on Thursday, July 23, 1885, at the age of 63 in Mount McGregor, Saratoga County, New York. His last word was a request, "Hydrazine."

        Yeah, he may be dead, but who's buried in Grant's tomb?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      He's going to be pissed when he sees all the other satellites trying to make it with his wife.
    • I've posted a brief extract from Dante below, but the Ulysses reference may not be to the return from Ilion (Odysseus/Ulysses are usually assumed to be the same hero). It is the last voyage not mentioned by Homer, but for which there seems to be another source. After his return to Ithaca Ulysses decides to make a last voyage with his companions to see the Western Mediterranean. He eventually passes beyond the Straits of Herakles (Gibraltar) and never returns.

      In Dante (Commedia,Inf 26) his voyage beyond the

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 12, 2008 @05:58PM (#24166975)

    You thought the leaden winter would bring you down forever,
    But you rode upon a steamer to the violence of the sun.

    And the colors of the sea blind your eyes with trembling mermaids,
    And you touch the distant beaches with tales of brave Ulysses:
    How his naked ears were tortured by the sirens sweetly singing,
    For the sparkling waves are calling you to kiss their white laced lips.

    And you see a girl's brown body dancing through the turquoise,
    And her footprints make you follow where the sky loves the sea.
    And when your fingers find her, she drowns you in her body,
    Carving deep blue ripples in the tissues of your mind.

    The tiny purple fishes run laughing through your fingers,
    And you want to take her with you to the hard land of the winter.

    Her name is Aphrodite and she rides a crimson shell,
    And you know you cannot leave her for you touched the distant sands
    With tales of brave Ulysses; how his naked ears were tortured
    By the sirens sweetly singing.

    The tiny purple fishes run lauging through your fingers,
    And you want to take her with you to the hard land of the winter.

    • by morari (1080535)

      Always hard to beat The Cream!

      On a related note, give Symphony X's "The Odyssey" a listen. It's a true rock opera.

  • by timmarhy (659436) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @06:14PM (#24167109)
    You don't need billion dollar budget programs to achieve amazing science, low cost well thought out missions can do great things. maybe it's the thinking part that has them stumped.
    • by iminplaya (723125)

      It's entirely possible that lack of funding could kill it before the hydrazine freezes over.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nacturation (646836) *

      How do the inflation-adjusted costs of previous missions compare to current mission costs?
       

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      ESA says [esa.int] the total cost of Ulysses has been about 1 billion Euro, which is about $1.5 billion US. Might want to try a different example.

      • by timmarhy (659436) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @07:43PM (#24167663)
        that's 1.5 billion OVER 17 YEARS.

        that's bargin basement space exploration. it's the perfect example, thank you very much.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by macbuzz01 (1074795)
          $241,575.069 per day in US dollars.
          • by dylan_- (1661)

            $241,575.069 per day in US dollars.

            Well, I can't believe you put down this as accurately as 0.1 of a cent, but:

            • Our year actually averages out to 365.2425, which gives $241,580.03 a day. Still, if you've thought of .25 I guess .2425 is easy to remember.
            • You could think of this as the amount the US national debt increases every 20 seconds or so. In other words, if you're not worried about the national debt, why worry about this expenditure?
    • by JoeRobe (207552) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @08:03PM (#24167871) Homepage

      a) Ulysses has cost over a billion.

      b) NASA has had spacecraft which have lasted longer than anyone thought they would. The current Mars rovers for example, and Mars Pathfinder, as well as the Galileo spacecraft, which had at least 4 extended missions. Not to mention the Voyagers. The correlation between cost and the lifetime of the craft is not coincidental.

      c) Having a mission that lasts a long time is not indicative of a well thought out mission. I think if any agency is going to blow 1 billion on a mission, they're going to think it out pretty damn well. Imagine the public backlash if it weren't thought out (i.e. Mars Polar Lander)...

      • by hedwards (940851)

        Craft and instruments that out live their missions by as long as some of those have were over-engineered.

        Yes, it's great that those are still useful, but it means that they were over-engineered and cost more than they really needed to. That's money which could be spent on other missions.

        I'm not suggesting that NASA have its budget slashed, but praising an agency for what is essentially a form of screwing up isn't great. Or that projects be designed to last exactly the length of time desired, but ideally pro

        • by Taleron (875810)
          If I were trying to hit the bullseye of a dartboard from 400 million miles with a 400 million dollar tea kettle, I think I'd want and possibly need to over-engineer the tea kettle.
        • by sjames (1099)

          Sometimes, over-engineering is exactly the right thing to do.

          If they built it "just right" and any little thing went wrong, the mission fails and the money is all down the drain.

          Over-engineer and you're much more likely to accomplish the mission. Usually, you get to add an extended secondary mission so the extra cost isn't a waste.

    • Actually no, they tried that and they had a bunch of mostly failed missions.  That's why they quit doing that.

      Space travel isn't that easy for us, yet.
  • You thought the leaden winter would bring you down forever,
    But you rode upon a steamer to the violence of the sun.
  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Saturday July 12, 2008 @07:27PM (#24167555)

    Ulysses Spacecraft Not Dead Yet

    Hmm, that reminded me of this movie [youtube.com]...

  • ...find the kingdom of Hades; then the pipes won't be as lifeless as stone anymore and it can return home.

    Ulysses, Ulysses
    Soaring through all the galaxies
    In search of Earth
    Flying into the night...
  • by Phil Karn (14620) <karn@ka[ ]net ['9q.' in gap]> on Saturday July 12, 2008 @10:11PM (#24168827) Homepage
    The blog article at the Planetary Society website says that Ulysses will encounter Jupiter and be ejected from the solar system. Is this a theoretical possibility, or has a date for this been determined? Ulysses originally encountered Jupiter to fling it out of the ecliptic plane so it could study the sun at high latitudes. Its aphelion is still at Jupiter's orbit. If it encounters Jupiter again, any number of things could happen to it. The statement about it being ejected seems to imply that a specific encounter trajectory is already predicted.
  • I'm feeling better

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