Friday, June 22, 2012

Voyagers On The Edge

Spacecraft Voyager 2 and Voyager 1, launched in 1972 and 1977 respectively, are on the verge of exiting the heliosheath, the area around the Sun within which the Sun's particle emissions meet the galaxy's cosmic rays from interstellar space. Both spacecraft are still working, still sending back information. Now there's some technology for you... when is the last time you owned a TV that worked for more than 30 years?

These are humankind's first interstellar objects. If they keep on working as they go through the heliosheath (a big IF, I suspect), we will learn things about our Sun and our galaxy that have only been speculated on to this point. To those who say spaceflight has no impact on actual science, I can only stand back and point to the Voyager program.

6 comments:

  1. Ah now this is good Wow news. I hope that the probes provide grounbreaking info for another few years

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  2. Constance ReaderJune 22, 2012 at 9:41 PM

    Come, my friends,
    'Tis 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.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The projected end date is around 2024 as they have nuclear power on board, not something that most people knew about when they were launched.

    The Soviets used small nuclear reactors on a number of their satellites, which made everyone who knew it very nervous.

    That said, they are a real accomplishment for humans. Too bad that most people don't understand that, and why that's important.

    If we don't have goals, we will never have any victories. Stasis is death, and people have lost the wonder of the unknown.

    ReplyDelete
  4. jams - I really hope they keep working on the other side of the boundary. As Bryan said, their power should maintain, but I wonder whether the perpetually impinging cosmic rays may wreak havoc with the electronics. Time will tell...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Constance - it has been decades since I thought of Ulysses! Thank you for reminding me!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Bryan, human interest in exploration has always waxed and waned, but in the long run it never fails. I do hope Congress is not so obsessed with money that they cease even collecting data from the Voyagers; that's the kind of thing that someone like, say, Paul Ryan would do, but perhaps sanity will prevail against that as well as his other intentions.

    The other difficult transition will take place when the mission coordinator (whatever his title) dies; I believe he's about 76 years old now.

    Cross our fingers, and scream bloody hell if Congress threatens the funding!

    ReplyDelete

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