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NASA Space

Voyager 2 Speaking In Tongues 260

dangle sends in an update from the borderland of Sol. "Voyager 2's flight data system, which formats information before beaming it back to Earth, has experienced a hiccup that has altered the pattern in which it sends updates home, preventing mission managers from decoding the science data beamed to Earth from Voyager 2. The spacecraft, which is currently 8.6 billion miles (13.8 billion km) from Earth, is apparently still in overall good health, according to the latest engineering data received on May 1. 'Voyager 2's initial mission was a four-year journey to Saturn, but it is still returning data 33 years later,' said Voyager project scientist Ed Stone of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. 'It has already given us remarkable views of Uranus and Neptune, planets we had never seen close-up before. We will know soon what it will take for it to continue its epic journey of discovery.' The space probe and its twin Voyager 1 are flying through the bubble-like heliosphere, created by the sun, which surrounds our solar system."
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Voyager 2 Speaking In Tongues

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  • Decoding (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:38AM (#32125612)

    I think I can make it out. It says "All... your... base..."

  • by biryokumaru ( 822262 ) <biryokumaru@gmail.com> on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:39AM (#32125622)
    Oh no, it's hit the crystal sphere [wikipedia.org]!
  • by axl917 ( 1542205 ) <axl@mail.plymouth.edu> on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:39AM (#32125626)

    Don't piss it off, NASA.

  • Arnold Rimmer: Aliens!
  • v'ger (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CDS ( 143158 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:45AM (#32125712)
    I thought it was Voyager VI that was supposed to come back and we couldn't understand what it was saying...
  • What! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tobor the Eighth Man ( 13061 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:46AM (#32125720)

    "It has already given us remarkable views of Uranus..."

    Well, I never!

  • It's so obivous (Score:2, Interesting)

    by asukasoryu ( 1804858 )

    Either the probe has been out there long enough to become sentient or this is an elaborate trap set by aliens. Either way, our doom is imminent.

  • It has already given us remarkable views of Uranus

    Teehee. I could never be an astronomer.

    *insert oblig goatse reference here*

    • Re:Orly? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:54AM (#32125832)

      I used to work for a chemistry department whose *nix boxes were named after elements. The back up sun server (it was previously was the primary server, but it was retired in favor of a more powerful sun box and just kept as a backup) was Uranus. Every time you said Uranus, one of the *nix admins would say "Whose anus?"

      Now, what was really funny was this person had a memory issue. So EVERY TIME he thought it was the first time he had told you the "joke". It got to the point where before he could even say Uranus, every professor would say yes whose anus, and he would just sit there shocked and say "How did you know I was going to say that?"

  • ROI (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BloodyIron ( 939359 )

    Talk about return on investment!

    • People, in general, don't really see that NASA funds tend to have a gigantic unplanned ROI potential. I mean, look at all the rovers sent to Mars that outlasted their planned lifetimes, all the satellites that did the same, all the space probes that have insane lifetimes...
  • 33 years old = bit rot and other SS parts going bad??

    Battery getting weak?

    Some kind of y2k error?

    Rollover error?

    • by pbhj ( 607776 )

      I'd have thought a cosmic ray flipped an important bit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:55AM (#32125840)

    All the news articles report pretty much the same, digested, not particularly informative stuff. The mission page [nasa.gov] hasn't been updated in a while, the NASA news item isn't any more detailed [nasa.gov], and the last operations report [nasa.gov] was from March 12. But I did learn this from the operations report: they're running the whole mission on less than 275 Watts of power from the RTG units. Wow.

    • by dtmos ( 447842 ) * on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:37AM (#32127706)

      Reading that operations report I was most impressed by these two lines:

      There were 97.9 hours of DSN scheduled support for Voyager 1 of which 61.3 hours were large aperture coverage.


      There were 62.3 hours of DSN scheduled support for Voyager 2 of which 39.3 hours were large aperture coverage.

      Wow -- that's an incredible amount of Deep Space Network [nasa.gov] time in a week -- and, looking at earlier reports, it seems to be representative of the time used in a typical week. I had no idea that the Voyagers were consuming that much DSN time. I assume "large aperture coverage" means use of the 70m dishes -- also an impressive number.

      That much DSN time must be very expensive.

  • Garbled how? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hcdejong ( 561314 ) <hobbes&xmsnet,nl> on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:55AM (#32125842)

    I wonder if it'd be possible to reconstruct the signal. We know what the signal is supposed to look like, and should be able to find out what's different.

    • Re:Garbled how? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rbochan ( 827946 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:06AM (#32126004) Homepage

      You hope in any future endeavor like this, if it hasn't been done already, that each batch of data it sends would start with some sort of test/reference data that they could compare against.

    • Sure. Just print it out and wrap the paper into a cube shape. Don't you ever listen to Mr. Hadden? [google.com]
    • by b4dc0d3r ( 1268512 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:43AM (#32126676)

      They should put it on BitTorrent labeled "Assasin's Creed 3 with Ubisoft's unbreakable DRM -- REAL !!!1! 0-day warez CDC propz to Hippie!!!". It will be fixed in a week.

      • That's how the whole V'ger thing happened. Crackers programmed it to go to back to the publishers and have a word with them. :p
      • Yeah but what good is it going to do NASA when the pirates figure out how to work Voyager's data into a playable version of AC3? They want the science data!

    • I wonder if it'd be possible to reconstruct the signal. We know what the signal is supposed to look like, and should be able to find out what's different.

      I suggest calling up Jeff Goldblum to see if he can take a crack at this by plugging the signal into his laptop.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by i.am.delf ( 1665555 )
      From what I remember from a tour I had of the DSN facility at Goldstone is that even back then(~2000) that both Voyager 1 and 2 were well beyond the noise background. I think they said it was 9dB below noise even then. The only way they could understand the signals coming back from the probes was by "voting". Basically they would have the probe send the same message over and over and over. The message was then reconstructed by saying Bit #125 was 65 for and 35 against, probably a 1. More than that the
      • So by pattern change, they probably mean that the bits that they are coming up with via the voting process [suddenly?] no longer match the expected pattern of the data.

        Maybe that just means that the signal has become too weak for even the voting method to work.

        Or... [puts sci fi hat on] maybe we are picking up an alien transmission, that without the voting process would be too weak to notice.
        • Never mind... I just RTFA... apparently only the science data is affected by the change. Other data is still being received normally.
  • Ice Giants (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CheshireCatCO ( 185193 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:57AM (#32125864) Homepage

    "It has already given us remarkable views of Uranus and Neptune, planets we had never seen close-up before."

    And, sadly, we haven't been back since. I can't quite bring myself to call this a travesty, but it does seem like a wasted chance to explore some still-mysterious planets. (Granted, it's expensive to send orbiters out there.)

    • Sorry, we need those resources to send heavy bags of water to Mars!

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Stormin ( 86907 ) *

      I remember seeing on a TV program about the Voyager project how serendipitous the timing of the launch was - where you could hop from planet to planet to planet using the gravity well of each planet to jump to the next one. Basically the alignment of the planets when Voyager launched made this possible, and such an alignment isn't going to come around again in our lifetime. So you'd need to build seperate probes to go to each planet, instead of being able to send one probe to many of them.

      • Re:Ice Giants (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anomalyst ( 742352 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:01AM (#32127024)

        So you'd need to build separate probes to go to each planet, instead of being able to send one probe to many of them.

        Well, no. The outer planet approximate syzygy provided the most efficient profile, mission timewise. You can always gravity sling from one sufficiently massive planetary body to another, using the correct entry and exit vector for the current velocity, it would just take longer to visit them all at this point in time, as you might have to go all the way across solar system to reach the "next" body and then back across again for the next hop.

        • > You can always gravity sling from one sufficiently massive planetary body to another, using the correct entry and exit vector for the current velocity

          But how do you steer the vehicle? Can you even?

          • Same way you change speeds: use the main engine to create an acceleration.

          • Well you can always do minor course corrections with bang-bang thrusters. But you have to understand, just about every mode of travel (actually, I think literally every mode of travel), for a probe, deep space or otherwise, is just some sort of fancy orbit or another. Essentially, a gravity sling maneuver is just using a very particular orbit to gain velocity in the desired direction. Then, using an on board propulsion of some sort, you thrust either in the direction of the velocity vector, or opposite the
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) *

              But you have to understand, just about every mode of travel (actually, I think literally every mode of travel), for a probe, deep space or otherwise, is just some sort of fancy orbit or another.

              I'm pretty sure the Voyager probes are the exception to that, since they're aimed to actually exit the solar system rather than eventually returning.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:00AM (#32125908)

    D.J.: I thought it said "liberate me" - "save me." But it's not "me." It's "liberate tutame" - "save yourself." And it gets worse.
    [Plays the distress signal again]
    D.J.: There - I think that says "ex inferis." "Save yourself... from hell." Look, if what Doctor Weir tells us is true, this ship has been beyond the boundaries of our universe, of known scientific reality. Who knows where it's been, what it's seen. Or what it's brought back with it.
    Miller: From hell.

    • I've often wondered about that movie...

      Obstentionally a computer gone sentient would learn language from the programming and documentation stored on said computer. So WTF did the Latin come from?

      That or the computer was programmed by a nerd like me who writes comments in Latin when they are observational comments rather than illustrative ones.

  • After the collision they repaired each other. That is where the confusion came from.

  • More Like it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by coofercat ( 719737 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:02AM (#32125944) Homepage Journal

    I have no idea what I'm talking about here, but...

    We now have much better technology, both for getting to space, and for science aboard a probe. For example, even something like the British Beagle 2 Mars mission cost a few million to make, and although it didn't end up returning much of use, it demonstrates how 'easy' such things are (or how hard things are, depending on your point of view, I suppose).

    So I'm wondering, isn't it worth mankind's time to build a (say) £25M long-range probe, like the Voyagers, only designed for the purpose, and shoved into space in some get-there-fast manner?

    I'm sure we can argue about the best use of a limited budget, and what constitutes the best science returned for the spend, for the rest of our lives, but a "cheap" probe sent out every few years to do something a bit random might well do wonders for us and our understanding of the Solar system, let alone the Universe as a whole. I wouldn't presume to say we should do such things at the expense of anything more major, but more to foster some 'experimentation' in space.

    Just a thought... TFI Friday :-)

    • Re:More Like it? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by qc_dk ( 734452 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:18AM (#32126174)

      It's probably relatively cheap to build such a probe, and probably also relatively easy to get the funding for a short project like that, but the problem comes when we have to listen to the probe. That's probably expensive and a very long-term project, which are very difficult to get funded(plus they are the prime victims of budget cuts, because such long-term projects are often funded directly outside the normal proposal calls.)

    • Re:More Like it? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Burdell ( 228580 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:23AM (#32126282)

      It would probably cost a good bit more than that to build a long-range probe that has to work for many years before reaching its target. Also, you have to pay for ground stations and personnel to monitor it for the years it takes to get somewhere. We have no magic "get-there-fast manner" today; in fact, the Voyagers were able to do so much because of a once-in-our-lifetime planetary alignment (the Grand Tour). The NASA New Horizons probe is going to Pluto (and beyond), and it will take 9.5 years to get there (and if the launch had been delayed by another few weeks, it would have taken several years longer because there wouldn't have been a Jupiter slingshot fly-by).

      • Re:More Like it? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by darkmeridian ( 119044 ) <william@chuang.gmail@com> on Friday May 07, 2010 @12:53PM (#32129006) Homepage

        The advances (and readily available advances) in ion engine technology could be used to drive a spacecraft that will accelerate for years out into deep space after chemical boosting ends. Advances in miniaturization and materials science mean that it can be made lighter and carry more instrumentation with better functionality and reliability than those found on Voyager. If we wanted to do it, we can make a new probe that is lighter, has more capabilities, and is sturdier so it can flier faster and stay alive longer than Voyager. Of course, not sure if we still have the desire to be explorers of the universe.

    • If they can make ion drives cheap, you might be onto something. Thing is that to get out of the solar system, you've got to pull some orbital mechanics that involve you paying the outer planets a visit, so you might as well make exploration of that part of the solar system part of the main mission.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Eevee ( 535658 )
      You mean like the New Horizons [wikipedia.org] probe currently heading towards Pluto? It's a bit more expensive ($650 million for the lifetime of the program) than your goal. But that not too surprising. In a Space Review article [thespacereview.com] from 2004, it discusses costing $5 million launch costs just to put a small payload in Earth orbit. Since we're talking about escaping Earth orbit, it's going to take a larger (and more expensive) launch vehicle. Ariane 5 launches are up around $100 million, while shuttle launches average out to $
    • There isn't really any such thing as a "get-there-fast manner" in space. The distances involved are literally astronomical, and the faster you want to go, the more reaction mass you have to carry, which in turn makes it more difficult to accelerate. (Ion drives don't have this problem, but also accelerate really, really slowly; their main advantage is that they're cheaper to get into orbit in the first place, not that they'll get where they're going any faster.) No matter what, you need to be able to ope
  • maybe... (Score:3, Insightful)

    Perhaps the data has been altered by intelligent beings in order to communicate with us.

    Or maybe they did it as a joke.

    • The thing is, this is probably more a more likely scenario for finding intelligent life than SETI could hope to accomplish.
    • They probably did it to keep us ignorant of what lies beyond this solar system.

      The man (or alien) is keeping the whole population of this planet down!

    • If we discover that it has switched to broadcasting a series of prime numbers, then I would promptly crap my pants.
  • Just include some of the data in a game DRM key, and it will be cracked in a few hours. Problem solved.

    Or announce a contest. Most anything as a prize, maybe a spacesuit glove or spare antenna? We crack encryption readily in many cases, so I suspect someone can figure out what rolled over or got zapped by a cosmic ray, and this is fixed for another 33 years or so.

    -ps: is Voyager 2 running better than a 1977 Cadillac? Probably. Probably better than a 1977 Mercedes.

  • by antirelic ( 1030688 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:35AM (#32126492) Journal

    Being that I am not a physicist (though I am a big fan), I am asking any physicists out there if they have figured out how much time has passed for the Voyager satellites according to the laws of relativity compared to Earth. From what I understand, they are traveling around 17km/s. How does that work out over a span of 30-50 years from earthling perspective.

    Thanx in advance.

  • and we, still in the Slow Zone, can't understand it. But what gave it the upgrade?

    • Well, we all know that even simple machinery can become self aware when going far enough into the beyond...

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:00AM (#32127002)
    Imagine if you were still using version 1.0 of their hardware and softwares.
    • A: I wouldn't be on Slashdot wasting time.
      B: I'd probably get more done. Multitasking hasn't turned out to be all it's cracked up to be. I sure don't *FEEL* more productive.
  • WTF is a "data pattern change"?
  • by ae1294 ( 1547521 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:04AM (#32127092) Journal

    AM I Fucking TH3RE YeT???

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      That message qwas of no concern,. When it start broadcasting "Are we Fucking Th3r3 YeT?" we became concerned.

      • by ae1294 ( 1547521 )

        That message qwas of no concern,. When it start broadcasting "Are we Fucking Th3r3 YeT?" we became concerned.

        I heard it was the "ThAt's iT, i'M c0m1ng back NOW to K1cK a11 YoUr Asses cause there aint n0 damb White Castle out here!"

  • Signal Fade Away
    Voyager still on its way
    with Vogon Haiku
  • which formats information before beaming it back to Earth

    And the alternative was...?

  • Hopefully someone is recording all of this. Even if we can't decode it NOW, chances are that we can at some point -- assuming it's real but mistranslated data and not just random garbage. Why not let BOINC clients chew on some of it and see what they come up with, or divert a small fraction of SETI clients. At least in this case, we KNOW it's trying to communicate with us. This should be a good opportunity to see if we have the capabilities to decipher it.

    I know I'd be willing to let my machine ruminate on

  • by Kazymyr ( 190114 ) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:39AM (#32127728) Journal

    Will Voyager 2 be home next Tuesday between 10 and 2? That's when we have someone available.

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly