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Celebrate Voyager's 40th Anniversary By Beaming A Message Into Outer Space (nytimes.com) 83

Long-time Slashdot reader Noryungi writes: NASA will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the launch of the twin Voyager probes next month. So let us celebrate both the probes and the people who are still working on them, and nursing them in their final years.
The New York Times fondly profiles Voyager's nine aging flight-team engineers who "may be the last people left on the planet who can operate the spacecraft's onboard computers, which have 235,000 times less memory and 175,000 times less speed than a 16-gigabyte smartphone." NASA reports that now "Voyager 1 is in 'Interstellar space' and Voyager 2 is currently in the 'Heliosheath' -- the outermost layer of the heliosphere where the solar wind is slowed by the pressure of interstellar gas. " But the Times notes that the probes "are running out of fuel. (Decaying plutonium supplies their power.) By 2030 at the latest, they will not have enough juice left to run a single experiment."

NASA is now inviting the public to submit positive messages to be considered for beaming into space on September 5th -- the 40th anniversary of Voyager 1's launch. "Messages can have a maximum of 60 characters and be posted on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+ or Tumblr using the hashtag #MessageToVoyager," until August 15th, after which humanity will vote on which message should be sent.
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Celebrate Voyager's 40th Anniversary By Beaming A Message Into Outer Space

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  • Here's one (Score:4, Funny)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday August 06, 2017 @04:54PM (#54951785)

    Earth Rules! Your planet drools.

  • "Bye Voyager McVoyagerface" is the winner.

  • S.O.S. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Sunday August 06, 2017 @04:57PM (#54951805) Journal

    My recommended message from the people of Earth: "Send Help."

  • god dam you made me feel old for a second then! I thought it was about Star Trek Voyager. I should go bed
  • "Nothing to see here keep on going". Too positive?
  • Maybe it is time to have those 9 compile complete documentation on it, as well as help some computer scientists write a full simulator of the two probes systems and run through known test cases, potential problems, etc with them so the broader community could start training support for them, even if the odds of further communication/necessity are slim.

    Personally for Voyager's 50th Anniversary, I would like to seem them replicate the systems in it (NOT modernized, except maybe the engine designs if we can ge

    • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Sunday August 06, 2017 @07:05PM (#54952625) Homepage

      It's disingenuous to suggest that ONLY those 9 people can operate it. They may be most familiar (but, hey, can you remember the details of what you were doing 40 years ago?), but they're certainly not the only people precisely BECAUSE such documentation exists.

      Hey, don't forget, we are still communicating with Voyager.

      The problem is not that the tech was inherently more reliable back then, but it has a 40 year head-start. Sending out a probe today would give you pretty much the same kind of lag in technology by the time it gets to where these are, and nobody will really care much about what it's saying.

      The problem we have is not that we can't go anywhere, or send another probe, or don't have the technology or know-how. It's that nobody wants to pay for it any more. You can't do much about that problem without finding someone willing to pay.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        The problem we have is not that we can't go anywhere, or send another probe, or don't have the technology or know-how. It's that nobody wants to pay for it any more. You can't do much about that problem without finding someone willing to pay.

        The planets only align for the "grand tour" gravity boost the Voyager probes got once every 175 years. And they contribute a lot more to slingshoting the probes out of the solar system than chemical rockets do. Unless we get a massive breakthrough in some other form of propulsion there's not much point in trying again until 2151. Not that we actually expect to find much of anything outside the heliosphere, Voyager 1 is 20 light minutes out and it should be pretty empty for the next 4.3 light years. Since th

  • by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Sunday August 06, 2017 @06:20PM (#54952327) Journal

    "My God, it's full of stars."

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Aliens... send help! We've been infested with SJWs!

  • by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Sunday August 06, 2017 @07:01PM (#54952607)

    Hey I haven't met you
    this is crazy
    here's my coordinates
    call me maybe

  • by careysub ( 976506 ) on Sunday August 06, 2017 @07:50PM (#54952899)

    The highest estimate I have seen on when the radioisotope generator outputs drop to the point that they fall silent is 2030. Until the probe actually goes silent we need to keep in touch with the probes so they better be setting up a complete training system to keep qualified personnel around for the next 13 plus years. It might surprise us a go a little longer than expected.

    We don't have anything else we can contact that will be that far out, and may not again in this century. At the point where they will probably go silent they will have been in transit for 53 years, and 50 years since they got their full energy kick - the largest any probes have ever received due to a double gas giant slingshot manuever*. There are no new super high-velocity missions even being floated that I can find, so it may be decades before anything of similar or greater speed is launched.

    Future probes beyond Saturn will probably be orbiters instead of fly-bys, and all such trans-Saturnian missions will probably use advanced electromagnetic propulsion (ion, plasma, maybe even solar sail) that is still being developed or in the early stages of roll-out. An ion driven interstellar space probe would be neat, I'll bet there are a lot of interesting observations even of our own system, and experiments, that can only be made at great distances.

    *Or velocity vector rotations if you want to be pedantic.

    • I was watching a documentary called Salvation and I see they have already developed the EM drive! :-)

  • We are the creator...

  • My vote would go for "If life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then the one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion," but unfortunately it's far more than 60 characters long. (For those unfamiliar with the context, read the complete passage [tumblr.com] here.

    I suppose then, my recommendation is: "Voyager, the first step. Flying beyond it shall be the next."

  • by k6mfw ( 1182893 ) on Sunday August 06, 2017 @08:44PM (#54953161)
    I almost torn out those pages from Aviation Week magazines the university library (I didn't as I know others will want stare at the photos for an hour or so). I remember KQED devoted the whole day covering Pioneer Saturn flyby, all the scientists debating "we have F and G rings, but some have doubts. We will try to enhance to determine if there is a H ring." Then comes Voyager showing a bizillion rings... so much for finding the H ring.
  • Donald Trump destroying all aliens. Recommend attacking now.
  • ...and thanks for all the pictures.
  • Why can't they use an email address or some other method? I don't want a Twitter account and I don't want Twitter to know anything about me. Thanks so much, NASA.
    • Before anyone says it: I also do not want to use ANY 'social media' of any kind and that's all they're offering. Again: Thanks so much, NASA.
  • "You're going the wrong way!!!"

Unix will self-destruct in five seconds... 4... 3... 2... 1...