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NASA Space

Voyager 1, So Close To Interstellar Space That We Can Taste It! 271

mphall21 writes "Voyager 1 is nearing the edge of the 'magnetic highway' of our solar system and scientists believe this is the final area the space probe must cross before entering interstellar space. The Voyager team infers this region is still inside of our heliosphere because the direction of the magnetic field has not changed. The direction of this field is expected to change when Voyager goes into interstellar space. 'Although Voyager 1 still is inside the sun's environment, we now can taste what it's like on the outside because the particles are zipping in and out on this magnetic highway,' said Edward Stone, Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. 'We believe this is the last leg of our journey to interstellar space. Our best guess is it's likely just a few months to a couple years away. The new region isn't what we expected, but we've come to expect the unexpected from Voyager.' Moving at 10.5 miles per second, the space probe is the most distant man-made object from Earth. The space craft has been in operation for 35 years and receives regular commands and transmits data back to the Deep Space Network."
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Voyager 1, So Close To Interstellar Space That We Can Taste It!

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:22PM (#42175803)
    This is truly a triumph of modern science and unfortunately we do not dream big like this anymore. We are limited to our own backyard. The moon, Mars, etc. Such a shame.
  • It's sad.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rick Zeman ( 15628 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:31PM (#42175845)

    ...stories like this just emphasize the major suckitude of the current US space policy in that our current glory is tech from 30 years in the past. What'll we be talking about 30 years in the future?

  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:41PM (#42175911)
    We don't dream this big anymore? Since Voyager left earth, we sequenced the human genome, along with the genomes of nearly 200 other organisms. The computer that lives in my pocket is so much better than the computers on board Voyager that I can't even figure out how to compare them. Granted, I only spent 5 minutes skimming wiki articles trying to do so, but I'll also point out that 5 minutes of research got me the name of all the units on board the voyager, and way too much information for me to handle on that. 5 minutes of research at Voyager's time would maybe result in "finding the right world book letter." And it wouldn't have that information.

    Putting a big rocket and a nuclear power supply on something and sending it off into space is awe-inspiring, yes, but I'd argue we're dreaming much bigger today. The internet changed the world a lot more than the space age did.

    (Note that I'm not knocking the space age, and am fully aware that it's unlikely the internet would have come about were it not for the space age.)
  • Re:It's sad.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cmorriss ( 471077 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:51PM (#42175953)

    How about the probes we have zipping around all over the solar system? Messenger is collecting tons of information about Mercury. Of course, our information on Mars is growing by leaps and bounds by the month and we have a probe on its way to Pluto due to arrive in a few years.

    All done by NASA. The U.S. space program has continued to do great science since Voyager was launched and will continue into the future. Name another country that's even close.

  • by Grayhand ( 2610049 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:59PM (#42175987)
    Remember years ago when it was first announced that Voyager was entering interstellar space? There was another announcement a year or two ago and now they are saying it's really really close. When I was growing up NASA was considered the most reliable department the government had. After all the budget cuts they've been so starved for big announcements they keep jumping the gun. I know this wasn't out of NASA but it's still a NASA project. The real news in the last week was Mercury but it got buried under higher profile non stories. It just breaks my heart to see this. If they want news releases give us more rover stories! We've got two functional rovers again on Mars and the older one gets no attention and the new one has been all but forgotten. I've seen some stunning images because I cruise geek sites but the general public sees nothing. NASA has got to get better at playing the press game. People still support Mars exploration but look at the ISS as the poster child for press boondoggles. It's been treated more like a secret military project in the press. It's been fully functional for years but other than stories about possibly abandoning it which started weeks after it was completed when is the last time the regular press had a story about what was actually going on in the space station itself, I'm not talking resupply missions. I'll bet the average person couldn't name a single accomplishment or even test run on the space station. I'd bet most people have completely forgotten about it. What's the point of all the science if no one ever hears about it??? Botched press releases and dead silence is slowly killing NASA.
  • by pokoteng ( 2729771 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:59PM (#42175989)

    What happened to us engineers? Where did we go wrong?

    We started listening to business requirements and started engineering for products that had x year lifespan which happens to be much shorter than older machines.

    Given funding, we can probably make extraordinary machines now that can last for a millennia. We just don't because of cost and customer requirements to constantly upgrade to next new thing and dump the old with lesser features and looks.

  • Who's the "We" ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @12:05AM (#42176015) Journal

    This is truly a triumph of modern science and unfortunately we do not dream big like this anymore. We are limited to our own backyard. The moon, Mars, etc. Such a shame.

    If the "we" in question is NASA, your assertion is true.
    However, if the "we" denotes the human race, nope, the dream is still on, and there are still people working towards achieving even greater goals.
    People in Brazil, in Japan, in India, in China are working on projects that may take us (and the "us" here means human race) further.

  • by ipquickly ( 1562169 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @12:30AM (#42176135) Homepage

    I was about to make a joke about space expanding, but you raise quite a few valid points.
    If we don't make science "cool" and find ways to get younger generations interested in research and exploration we will be eclipsed by cultures and countries which will find themselves venturing out into space for the first time. They have all our research and experience - as our endeavors are well documented. To this they will add their own technologies and experience. Information might not flow both ways, leaving us at a severe disadvantage.

    By funding science and exploration we are funding our future. Our children are our future and we are leaving them at a disadvantage.

  • by SecurityTheatre ( 2427858 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @01:43AM (#42176405)

    To be fair, the NASA press releases are usually pretty accurate.

    They did announce that they confirmed entering the heliosheath a few years ago. They confirmed to have crossed the Heliopause last year.

    Now the journalists who write these articles write them as "Voyager entering interstellar space", which isn't entirely inaccurate, since it's a pretty vague concept.

    At least it's still working, and generating discussion...

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @02:20AM (#42176577) Journal
    Who looks back on Bush as enlightened? They didn't even invite him to the Republican national convention.
  • by Concerned Onlooker ( 473481 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @02:35AM (#42176649) Homepage Journal

    Thirty nine years.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @02:56AM (#42176735)

    Don't forget the Ion Thruster. Laughed at by many when it was featured on the show, then some scientists said "hey wait a minute, that might actually work." And holy shit, it works pretty well, even though it's certainly not as flashy as the ones in the show.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @03:49AM (#42176919)

    > The computer that lives in my pocket is so much better than the computers on board Voyager..

    I suspect the computer in your pocket won't still be working in 35 years.

  • by XiaoMing ( 1574363 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:16AM (#42176989)

    What's with all the complaints? How is this not news for nerds?

    We thought the heliosphere should have ended earlier. It (surprisingly, without sarcasm) hasn't. It's explained within the same summary what the expected metrics for such a boundary should be (a change in the direction of the magnetic field), as well as a quantification of the closeness (that extra-solar particles are making forays into Voyager's sensors) of said boundary.

    Add a dash of the fact that we are able to communicate through outer space with four-decades old technology, and I'm really not seeing what there is to bitch about.

    Oh and the Mars rover? Yeah it's still being analyzed whether the "complex hydrocarbons" are actually organic compounds, just like how it was still being analyzed whether the timing glitch in the LHC was a violation of general relativity. That is speculation, it's not news (at least not for nerds).

  • by Rakshasa-sensei ( 533725 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @04:45AM (#42177075) Homepage

    You are assuming the heliostat is static... It isn't, and it changes a lot depending on magnetic fields.

    If you look at the graphs (that are out there), there was 2-3 temporary drops in the magnetic field and increase in low-energy charged particles. Now it is truly beyond that boundary.

  • by sFurbo ( 1361249 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @08:29AM (#42177945)
    I'm not sure, the planet alignment needed propel Voyager to 17 km/s was pretty unique to the 70's. For comparison, New Horizons will have a final speed of around 13 km/s.
  • by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @01:14PM (#42180867)
    If Obama had stayed with the Bush budget we'd be in a full blown depression right now. Google 'Bikini Graph' to see what Bush left Obama. We were losing 700,000+ jobs A MONTH at the end of Bush's term. In short order we had stopped that loss and started growing again, albeit slowly.

    Borrowing money right now is as cheap as it ever has been. The 'cost' of deficit spending right now is literally trivial. Whereas reducing spending actually shrinks the economy. That million dollar contract that gets cancelled is literally a million dollars out of the economy. Not to mention the follow on effects as it spreads through the market. And it costs a few percentage points of that million dollars per year. Is it a long term solution? Of course not, but short term, you 'invest' in the economy and it will bounce back as there is now more 'demand' available.

    IT's how Stimulus works. And for another example of Stimulus, look again at that Bikini Graph, notice a slight drop in the jobs under Obama? Guess when the stimulus money ended...
  • by Widowwolf ( 779548 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @02:09PM (#42181645) Homepage
    Spirit and Opportunity would like to have a word with you. Well surpassed everything

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor