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NASA Space Science

Voyager 1 Beyond Solar Wind 245

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the merging-with-the-infinite dept.
healeyb noted that Voyager 1 has now reached a distance from the sun where it is no longer able to detect solar wind. Launched in 1977 to get up close and personal with our solar system's gas giants, scientists estimate that in another 4 years it will cross the heliosphere.
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Voyager 1 Beyond Solar Wind

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  • Sentience (Score:2, Funny)

    by truthsearch (249536)

    At what point does it become sentient, call itself V-ger, and return to destroy earth?

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      About the same time as Captain Kirk has completed his five year mission.

      But mind - it's the wrong Voyager probe, this one isn't scheduled to become sentient.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        But mind - it's the wrong Voyager probe, this one isn't scheduled to become sentient.

        And, more to the point ... now that I've looked a a little closer to a link [wikipedia.org] I've already cited ... it's Voyager 6.

        We only ever sent 1 and 2, so we're OK. We must be in the alternate timeline from the recent Trek where Vulcan gets destroyed or something. ;-)

        • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:37AM (#34546574) Homepage Journal

          Maybe this is the timeline where Cochrane decides it's easier to make money with a Ponzi scheme than a warp engine.

          • by gorzek (647352)

            We narrowly missed the Eugenics Wars and got George W. Bush instead of Khan Noonien Singh. I'll leave it up to the reader to decide whether we're the lucky ones.

            • by Canazza (1428553) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @11:09AM (#34546982)

              well, it looks like we're heading for a moneyless society quicker than trek did

              • by gorzek (647352)

                How do you figure? We might be moving to a cashless society but there will still be plenty of money moving around--just electronically.

                The economy of the Federation could best be described as a technate: an economy based on energy accounting rather than capitalism.

                • I'm not sure, but I think GP was referring to the fact that the world economy is screwed beyond any hope of recovery.
                • by prefec2 (875483)

                  They have also a different work motivation. The work to improve them selves and to better society. This is a very altruistic approach and it is totally anti-capitalistic. And I personally do not see any development in that direction. Even more it looks like that there is no lesson learned from the last economic disaster as we did not add any real regulation on the finance market.

                  • They have also a different work motivation. The work to improve them selves and to better society. This is a very altruistic approach and it is totally anti-capitalistic. And I personally do not see any development in that direction. Even more it looks like that there is no lesson learned from the last economic disaster as we did not add any real regulation on the finance market.

                    Humans are genetically programmed to be selfish - capitalism is the system most closely aligned with human nature. Case in point, look at the communist systems of the USSR and China. What's the first thing the people in power do? Make sure they are taken care of and have whatever they want. Human nature. Good luck "correcting" that issue.

                    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                      by Anonymous Coward

                      Humans are genetically programmed to be selfish - capitalism is the system most closely aligned with human nature

                      No, capitalism is the system most closely aligned with maximizing selfish values given the premise of scarce resources. If you violate that premise as Star Trek technology does, with its limitless fusion and anti-matter power, transporters, matter replicators, faster-than-light travel, etc then participating in capitalism may no longer be the solution that best maximizes selfish gain.

                      Case in poi

                    • by prefec2 (875483)

                      The human is not a purely egoistic machine. This has long be proven. However, he or she can act selfish. States like the USSR or China were not communistic societies even if they proclaimed it. They are communists just like North Korea is a democratic society, but their state is called Democratic People's Republic of Korea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_korea). However, the term communism is so widely used for different theories that it is not save to use it to identify one system.

                      In most communistic t

                    • by BergZ (1680594)

                      Humans are genetically programmed to be selfish - capitalism is the system most closely aligned with human nature.

                      Unfortunately it isn't so simple. People are genetically/behaviorally "programmed" to be selfish in some ways and altruistic in others (through notably unselfish acts of charity). We're a mixed bag.
                      As a result of our mixed nature, neither pure free-market capitalism nor communism match the complex needs of the human psyche. I suppose it's why mixed (market+social) economies are so prevalent around the world.

                  • by Nadaka (224565)

                    They live in a post scarcity society. You can afford to have different motivations where nearly every material want and need can be pooped out of a replicator on a whim.

                  • by Gilmoure (18428)

                    Current finance regulations are what caused all the problems. If people hadn't grown up with the need to get around gov't regulation, they never would have learned to be duplicitous and greedy and instead, would live lives of mild temperament and contemplation. Remember, all children are saint like and it's just society that teaches them to be mean and controlling.

              • by Lumpy (12016)

                trek never had a "moneyless" society. it always had money and wealth. They just never focused on it.

                • Except the Ferengi, they were all about the latinum.
                • This post might be too geeky even by Slashdot standards, however in Squire of Gothos Kirk clearly stated that humans were beyond such things.
            • by prefec2 (875483)

              Depends where you live. In Irak you might think that there is no difference. Even though GWB is not a super strong and hyper brilliant being with too much ego. He is mostly the opposite.

          • by prefec2 (875483)

            It is the time line where we didn't blow us up. So Cochrane does not develop the warp drive and we all die out because we use an un-desinfected phone. Oh wait ... wrong book. Anyway this reality is the one which hasn't been produced so far. It will be named:

            Star Trek @home

            and the story is, that the crew stays in San Fransisco in a bar going nowhere. And in the end the leave the convention and go home in a rusty taxi and are hit by a meteor containing Braxton or Dr. Who (but I am not totally sure).

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          We only ever sent 1 and 2, so we're OK. We must be in the alternate timeline from the recent Trek where Vulcan gets destroyed or something. ;-)

          Well, considering that they launched Khan and his crew in 1996 after the Eugenics war, I'd say that's a pretty safe bet.

    • Shortly after William Shatner returns to "A list" celebrity status.
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      At what point does it become sentient, call itself V-ger, and return to destroy earth?

      I believe you'd be talking a couple of hundred years in the future ... according to this [wikipedia.org], it will happen in 2271. :-P

      There's time yet.

    • that was voyager 6, not voyager 1

      you have failed to show adequate mastery of geek trivia, major subsection: star trek arcana

      bow your head in shame and leave the website

    • At what point does it become sentient, call itself V-ger, and return to destroy earth?

      Not soon enough

    • I wouldn't worry. It's such a slow motion picture that it'll take all eternity for it to get around to firing the weapons.

  • Edge (Score:5, Funny)

    by Metabolife (961249) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:23AM (#34546416)

    It's going to fall off the edge of the universe. I just know it.

    • by Amouth (879122)

      what will be interesting is when it gets into interstellar space - too see how its trajectory changes and why. will there be a strong wind to take it else where or will it no longer per part of our solar system momentum through the universe - or will it just keep going as if everything i sitting still..

    • It's going to fall off the edge of the universe. I just know it.

      No problem. It will land on a turtle. It's them all the way down.

    • Re:Edge (Score:4, Funny)

      by ATestR (1060586) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:53AM (#34546780) Homepage
      Nonsense. Any day it will splat against the solid glass wall on which all the stars are painted in florescent paint.
      • No, no, no... it's going to get caught in the great Sky Wizard's beard. Sheesh.

      • by KlaymenDK (713149)

        Nonsense. Any day it will splat against the solid glass wall

        I'm wondering why this hasn't happened to either of the small rovers roaming the desert. Different movie, but still...

  • by oldspewey (1303305) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:24AM (#34546424)

    17.5 billion kilometres and counting, over 3 decades spent hurtling away from from the sun, and still less than 0.05% of the way to the nearest star [wikipedia.org]

    We humans are really really really small.

    • by arcite (661011) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:36AM (#34546548)
      but we think big.
    • by Kjella (173770)

      Nah, just short-lived. Three decades is nothing.

      • Well at this rate, it would take around half a billion years to colonize the entire galaxy, which over cosmic timescales isn't too bad I suppose. As for visiting other galaxies, I'd be inclined to say it could never happen, but then it seems that our nearby galaxies are going to visit us [wikipedia.org] so that saves us the trouble.
        • Half a billion years is a fairly short time in galactic timescales. It took approximately one billion years after the Earth formed for life to appear, and then 3.5 billion years to get to us. You'd only need to evolve slightly faster than us (or slower, but around a first-generation star) to have been spacefaring for over half a billion years, which makes you wonder slightly why no one has colonised our star already.

          It's worth remembering that we've only been chucking things into space for about half a

          • by Chris Burke (6130)

            If someone else did this already, they hid their probes pretty well...

            Um... What makes you say that?

            It doesn't seem like they would have to be hiding much, or at all for that matter, for us to miss them.

            Look at a recent development at the limits of human observational ability: We just discovered that Eris is, despite its greater mass, may not actually be larger in diameter than Pluto. We did not do this by actually resolving the disk with sufficient resolution to answer the question, but by timing how lo

    • by MouseR (3264)

      Shows how much american vehicles fair over Toyotas.

    • I think I can I think I can I think I can.....

    • by Ecuador (740021)

      We humans are really really really small.

      Pfff. Our ego makes up for our size.

    • by gmuslera (3436)

      I don't care about how our size, or our reach into space, compares with galactic distances. Probably most if not all intelligent life in the universe are falling into the same category of small, if our understanding of physics is basically right.

      But i would be worried if our small reach is in time, both in the survival sense or in the thinking one. As species we are more worried about getting a fast profit than the effects of our behaviour for what will become the world in 50, 100 or more years (and that,

      • by khallow (566160)

        But i would be worried if our small reach is in time, both in the survival sense or in the thinking one. As species we are more worried about getting a fast profit than the effects of our behaviour for what will become the world in 50, 100 or more years (and that, without even touching odds of global catastrophes like asteroid hit or runaway climate change, just social changes could be as destructive for us)

        Easy way to fix that. Live longer.

    • by evanbd (210358)
      Yes, yes we are. [wikipedia.org]
    • by crunchygranola (1954152) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @11:57AM (#34547684)

      True, Voyager 1 has only travelled a short way between stars within our galaxy -- but here is a cool fact (I think).The Milky Way Galaxy is moving relative to the rest of the Universe (as defined by the Cosmic Microwave Background frame of reference) at 279 ± 68 km/sec, just under 0.1% the speed of light. This is the speed with which we are moving through the Universe. Thus if you live to be 80 years old (a typical lifespan today) you will die in a region of the Universe 0.074 light years from where you were born, and the first pyramids were built in Egypt in a region of the Universe more distant than Alpha Centauri.

    • They also shot those things out at a rather slow--relatively speaking--pace of just 16.8 km/s and 12.9 km/s for V1 and V2 respectively. Our present, flight proven electric drive technologies are a order of magnitude faster. Get to the nearest star fast, no, but we could certainly play out in the Kupiter belt and only have to wait a few years rather than a few decades like with did with these. Make no mistake I'm glad we got them out there. They've sent back some really awesome stuff but I also think it'
    • We humans are really really really small.

      Puny humans. Space toy make Hulk angry.

    • by zonex (1155201)
      For some perspective -- the Voyager is just 16.1 light hours away... the nearest star is 4.2 light years away. Happy tracks, little fella...
    • It's really mind-boggling to think that we can still receive data from it. From that distance, it takes about 16 hours for the data to arrive. And to think, I can't even get a reliable cell phone signal at home.
    • Just curious...

      How far would a probe with similar mass but equipped to expend it's energy on thrust at a similar rate make it over a similar period of time? I.e. with even a modest force of acceleration, what would be the current velocity and distance, relative to our sun?

  • by Colourspace (563895) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:25AM (#34546436)
    The fact we are still able to communicate with a piece of 33 year old technology (I'm only a few years older myself, and possibly not in as good a shape either) further away than any man made object ever launched, and are still getting useful science from it is nothing short of remarkable - matched only Spirits extended mission time so far, IMHO. And then, sometimes we can't even launch a satellite or two properly..
    • by troon (724114) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:29AM (#34546480)
      ITYM "Opportunity". Spirit's been silent, and I'm guessing dead, since March.
      • http://xkcd.com/695/ [xkcd.com]

        Warning: may make some readers cry.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        It seems quite likely now, yes. They lost communication in late March, the winter solstice was in late May so you'd expect it back around late July the way I'm thinking. It's 5 months past that now with 4 months left to peak production. If it survived the winter at all you'd think that would be long enough to get back in touch, of course it did get stuck in a less than ideal position so it might have trouble recharging enough. Worth listening to, but I would be surprised if it recovers and if it does it'll

    • by DarthVain (724186)

      Too bad eventual radioactive death will limit it's total longevity. Still a few decades of limited power rationed life yet.

    • The part I always find amazing is that it sends the data from that distance on a 23-watt radio transmitter.

      I've taken electrical engineering classes on this topic, and I understand how it's done, but I still find mind boggling that we can decode information sent with the power equivalent of a dim light bulb from well beyond the orbit of Pluto.

    • Yeah - it's a real shame that it got that far and *then* the solar wind detector broke. ;)
  • by Picardo85 (1408929) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:25AM (#34546444)
    are still probably cheaper per kB than sending an SMS ...
    • Re:Data transfers (Score:5, Interesting)

      by john83 (923470) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:37AM (#34546562)
      From here [nasa.gov],

      The total cost of the Voyager mission from May 1972 through the Neptune encounter (including launch vehicles, radioactive power source (RTGs), and DSN tracking support) is 865 million dollars.

      and

      A total of five trillion bits of scientific data had been returned to Earth by both Voyager spacecraft at the completion of the Neptune encounter.

      That's $0.001384 per bit. There are 1120 bits in an SMS message. That's about $1.55 per SMS. Not exactly cheap, but then Vodafone don't have coverage beyond Pluto.

      • We've left all but the most broad definitions of the solar system behind on $865 million, and yet we spend nearly that amount per unit to enable the annihilation of millions of our fellow beings without them ever knowing [wikipedia.org].

        What a world.

        • by prefec2 (875483)

          Well yes. Western countries are totally over militarized. And especially the USA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures [wikipedia.org] if I read this correctly than the US alone contributes with 43 % to the world's military budget. And the other NATO states add up to 19-20% of the budget. So in total NATO spends 62% of the world's military budget. Looks like we are a little over prepared when it comes to self-defense.

        • I agree with your point in the broad strokes, but also remember that a lot of military budget goes to research and development, albeit wastefully. For FY2010 (including Iraq and Afghanistan), the US spent $79B on "Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation". If even a percent of those dollars has the effectiveness of NASA's, that alone doubles the amount we spend on futurism.
      • by bindo (82607)

        Vodafone charges more than that for an sms in roaming, (for some european plans.)

        Besides most sms are much shorter than the limit. so 600 bits looks more that average. that would be 0.80 $

        So there you have it.

        Vodafone is more expensive.

  • by arcite (661011) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:31AM (#34546510)
    Since it is almost the same age as me, I feel a kinship with the little guy. It's amazing that it's still sending back readings after all theses years and millions of miles travelled in the deep dark infinite space. Onward to interstellar space! Godspeed!
  • NASA Craftsmanship (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Goboxer (1821502) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:35AM (#34546542)
    With how well NASA's gear works long after their mission is complete perhaps they should start selling toys and cars to fill in all those budget holes that they have.
    • by Kamokazi (1080091) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:48AM (#34546712)
      That's a great idea. Going by typical NASA costs for things, the toys would only run 10-50k, and you could get yourself into a nice efficient compact for a cool $15M
      • by geekoid (135745)

        Which is cheap, considering your going to get your self a 1 off that will run forever, be reliable, and can be changed to meat new goals.

        The reason tows and cars are cheaper is because they are mass produced. We could be making voyagers of 5K if we where making 1 a year, every year.

        • I doubt that even the expensive Voyager would last through a single season of salt spray and potholes.

      • by Xyrus (755017) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @01:47PM (#34549772) Journal

        Has it ever occurred to you that one of the reasons why NASA missions are so expensive is because you can't just yank shit of a shelf, stuff it in a box, and hope that it works in space? Did it cross your mind that the people with the know how to correctly engineer something that can last in space for extended periods of time aren't exactly cheap?

        There are no economies of scale here. Highly specialized = expensive. Highly specialized + rugged = very expensive.

  • Does anyone else remember with wonder those extended TV broadcasts where they spent all night on prime-time network TV to show off the latest incoming photos? And they even interviewed actual scientists about what the data meant.

    It's amazing and truly sad how far we've fallen since then.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @11:31AM (#34547288) Homepage

    Voyager probes are frigging HUGE. why cant we launch the same thing twice, but have them assemble in orbit and give it a chemical kick in the ass to get the slingshotting down and then when it get's it's last slingshot around juipeter kick in the Ion engines to do a long hard burn for a few years to get the thing really hauling ass.

    I'll bet with current tech we can get past Voyager 1 within 10 years AND have better instruments, a stronger transmitter, far more sensitive receiver, etc.... Seriously. NASA could do this right now and we might see a flyby of another star within a 200 year window.

    • by ledow (319597)

      Voyager costs billions.

      Voyager has taken since 1977 to get where it is and is currently hitting 14km/s. At those speeds, dusts rips you apart let alone anything else (it's 50400 km/h or 31317 mph). It takes YEARS to accelerate to that speed even with a constant acceleration from a nuclear powered engine that has had to work, unattended, since before I was born.

      If you *do* somehow manage to fund a mission (impossible) to do the exact same thing as an existing successful mission (extremely dubious given the

      • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @01:48PM (#34549782) Homepage

        " Voyager has taken since 1977 to get where it is and is currently hitting 14km/s. At those speeds, dusts rips you apart let alone anything else (it's 50400 km/h or 31317 mph). It takes YEARS to accelerate to that speed even with a constant acceleration from a nuclear powered engine that has had to work, unattended, since before I was born."

        Voyager has NO Thrust engines only attitude control. It's last acceleration was during a slingshot past the gas giants. It has had ZERO acceleration since 1979.

        Also Voyager 1 and 2 have no problem with this rip me apart dust you seem to think is all over the place out there.

        as for your claims of impossibility... So then Voyager 1,2, Viking, the Moon landings all were faked then? Because I'm asking for no more than doing what we did in the 70's but with current technology. It is very possible.

        Proxima Centauri is 4.2 light years out. an ion engine being able to thrust for 20 years with a set of Gridded Electrostatic ion thrusters achieve 100 kNs/k and some have had 210 kNs/k but not tested in continuous operation for 3 years like the older ones. Designing a craft to have 20 years worth of fuel and Nuclear power is not hard at all we did it in the 70's. and that kind of acceleration would get the craft to a fraction of light speed. Even a 1KW transmitter can send back telemetry to earth at a 1 light year distance if you reduce the data rate and still have fuel to keep the antenna pointed home.

        Granted giving it commands will be difficult, but we can make it smart so it can operate on it's own or with limited command needs.

        All of it is doable because we already did the hard parts of it several times already.

    • Voyager probes are frigging HUGE. why cant we launch the same thing twice, but have them assemble in orbit and give it a chemical kick in the ass to get the slingshotting down and then when it get's it's last slingshot around juipeter kick in the Ion engines to do a long hard burn for a few years to get the thing really hauling ass.

      Because it's really, really, REALLY, REALLY freaking expensive. You're talking a big task considering the need to develop the technology both for the probe and for on-orbit asse

  • by chebucto (992517) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @11:39AM (#34547392) Homepage

    I am not an astrophysicist, so I don't understand the subtelties of this, but it should be noted that NASA press release says the probe has measured a solar wind decline, not that the probe is beyond the solar wind. Specifically, it says the solar wind has 'no outward motion'. The probe's environment is still dominated by the solar wind because it is still in the heliosphere, or, as NASA says, 'Crossing into interstellar space would mean a sudden drop in the density of hot particles and an increase in the density of cold particles.'

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/voyager/voyager20101213.html [nasa.gov]

    Now hurtling toward interstellar space some 17.4 billion kilometers (10.8 billion miles) from the sun, Voyager 1 has crossed into an area where the velocity of the hot ionized gas, or plasma, emanating directly outward from the sun has slowed to zero. Scientists suspect the solar wind has been turned sideways by the pressure from the interstellar wind in the region between stars.

    ...

    Scientists believe Voyager 1 has not crossed the heliosheath into interstellar space. Crossing into interstellar space would mean a sudden drop in the density of hot particles and an increase in the density of cold particles. Scientists are putting the data into their models of the heliosphere's structure and should be able to better estimate when Voyager 1 will reach interstellar space. Researchers currently estimate Voyager 1 will cross that frontier in about four years.

  • by hAckz0r (989977) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @12:10PM (#34547870)
    Voyager is travelling 38,000 mph, directly away from the Sun. If its sensors no longer feel the push of the Solar Wind its because the wind is now going slower, say 37,999 mph, but not yet zero mph as the article title might imply. The wind is most likely still there, we just can not sense it anymore with the technology aboard the spacecraft.
    • Voyager is travelling 38,000 mph, directly away from the Sun. If its sensors no longer feel the push of the Solar Wind its because the wind is now going slower, say 37,999 mph, but not yet zero mph as the article title might imply. The wind is most likely still there, we just can not sense it anymore with the technology aboard the spacecraft.

      Doesn't the wind go at the speed of light? Or is it something to do with the speed the craft would be going if the wind were the only thing pushing it?

  • Remotely "manned", no need to retrieve it, no risk to humans, and exceeded its projected lifespan.

    Send up a few generations of machines and let the tourists follow far in the future.

    • by Improv (2467)

      I'm not sure how many tourists will want to follow Voyager where it's going.

  • Sounds like it's really high up. Must be above the clouds. The view from up there must be sooo stunning.
  • CPU - lowly RCA 1802 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sooner Boomer (96864) <sooner.boomr@g m a i l . com> on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @01:54PM (#34549858) Journal

    Wow, just wow! Not even a 6502. The Voyagers used a trio of 1802s clocked at 6.4MHz. Just goes to show what you can do with a specific bit of hardware and tight code.

A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any other invention, with the possible exceptions of handguns and Tequilla. -- Mitch Ratcliffe

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