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posted by martyb on Monday December 10 2018, @07:26PM   Printer-friendly
from the out-of-this-world...-and-then-some! dept.

NASA's Voyager 2 Probe Enters Interstellar Space

For the second time in history, a human-made object has reached the space between the stars. NASA's Voyager 2 probe now has exited the heliosphere - the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by the Sun.

Members of NASA's Voyager team will discuss the findings at a news conference at 11 a.m. EST (8 a.m. PST) today at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in Washington. The news conference will stream live on the agency's website.

Comparing data from different instruments aboard the trailblazing spacecraft, mission scientists determined the probe crossed the outer edge of the heliosphere on Nov. 5. This boundary, called the heliopause, is where the tenuous, hot solar wind meets the cold, dense interstellar medium. Its twin, Voyager 1, crossed this boundary in 2012, but Voyager 2 carries a working instrument that will provide first-of-its-kind observations of the nature of this gateway into interstellar space.

Voyager 2 now is slightly more than 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from Earth. Mission operators still can communicate with Voyager 2 as it enters this new phase of its journey, but information - moving at the speed of light - takes about 16.5 hours to travel from the spacecraft to Earth. By comparison, light traveling from the Sun takes about eight minutes to reach Earth.


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Humanity's Most Distant Space Probe Jeopardized by Computer Glitch 14 comments

https://arstechnica.com/space/2024/02/humanitys-most-distant-space-probe-jeopardized-by-computer-glitch/

Voyager 1 is still alive out there, barreling into the cosmos more than 15 billion miles away. However, a computer problem has kept the mission's loyal support team in Southern California from knowing much more about the status of one of NASA's longest-lived spacecraft.

The computer glitch cropped up on November 14, and it affected Voyager 1's ability to send back telemetry data, such as measurements from the spacecraft's science instruments or basic engineering information about how the probe was doing. [...] "It would be the biggest miracle if we get it back. We certainly haven't given up," said Suzanne Dodd, Voyager project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in an interview with Ars. "There are other things we can try. But this is, by far, the most serious since I've been project manager."

Dodd became the project manager for NASA's Voyager mission in 2010, overseeing a small cadre of engineers responsible for humanity's exploration into interstellar space. Voyager 1 is the most distant spacecraft ever, speeding away from the Sun at 38,000 mph (17 kilometers per second). [...] The latest problem with Voyager 1 lies in the probe's Flight Data Subsystem (FDS), one of three computers on the spacecraft working alongside a command-and-control central computer and another device overseeing attitude control and pointing. [...] In November, the data packages transmitted by Voyager 1 manifested a repeating pattern of ones and zeros as if it were stuck, according to NASA. Dodd said engineers at JPL have spent the better part of three months trying to diagnose the cause of the problem. She said the engineering team is "99.9 percent sure" the problem originated in the FDS, which appears to be having trouble "frame syncing" data. [...] "It's likely somewhere in the FDS memory," Dodd said. "A bit got flipped or corrupted. But without the telemetry, we can't see where that FDS memory corruption is."

[...] "We have sheets and sheets of schematics that are paper, that are all yellowed on the corners, and all signed in 1974," Dodd said. "They're pinned up on the walls and people are looking at them. That's a whole story in itself, just how to get to the information you need to be able to talk about the commanding decisions or what the problem might be." [...] "It is difficult to command Voyager," Dodd said. "We don't have any type of simulator for this. We don't have any hardware simulator. We don't have any software simulator... There's no simulator with the FDS, no hardware where we can try it on the ground first before we send it. So that makes people more cautious, and it's a balance between getting commanding right and taking risks."

[...] The spacecraft's vast distance and position in the southern sky require NASA to use the largest 230-foot (70-meter) antenna at a Deep Space Network tracking site in Australia, one of the network's most in-demand antennas.

"The data rates are very low, and this anomaly causes us not to have any telemetry," Dodd said. "We're kind of shooting in the blind a little bit because we don't know what the status of the spacecraft is completely."

Previously on SoylentNews:
Engineers Work to Fix Voyager 1 Computer - 20231215

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  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Runaway1956 on Monday December 10 2018, @07:37PM (16 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday December 10 2018, @07:37PM (#772504) Homepage Journal

    I have found God.

    He sends his love.

    Yours Truly,
    V'ger

    --
    Through a Glass, Darkly -George Patton
    • (Score: 2) by PartTimeZombie on Monday December 10 2018, @09:05PM

      by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Monday December 10 2018, @09:05PM (#772567)

      Hey V'ger

      Can you ask God to pick up some milk on his way home?

      Ta.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by DannyB on Monday December 10 2018, @10:31PM (8 children)

      by DannyB (5839) on Monday December 10 2018, @10:31PM (#772601) Journal

      Didn't he already send his love?

      --
      Reminder: March is National Procrastination Week.
      • (Score: 3, Touché) by bob_super on Monday December 10 2018, @10:54PM (6 children)

        by bob_super (1357) on Monday December 10 2018, @10:54PM (#772622)

        *Citation needed*

        (not from fairy tales books)

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @11:57PM (3 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @11:57PM (#772646)

          I'm sure she's up there, somewhere, shouting down how much she loves us, wondering why we can't hear her.

          • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:37AM (1 child)

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:37AM (#772672)

            She knows why you can't hear her. It's because men never listen.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:57AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:57AM (#772687)

            Because it makes your head explode ...

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by DannyB on Tuesday December 11 2018, @03:19PM

          by DannyB (5839) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @03:19PM (#772884) Journal

          *Citation needed*

          (not from fairy tales books)

          I'm not sure what you're getting at. Evidence that Jesus existed and walked the earth? There is more evidence for that than we have evidence that Julius Ceasar ever existed.

          You can believe about Jesus what you want.

          It's not a debate I'm going to get in to. That debate like talking to a rabid Trump supporter. (pardon the redundancy)

          For your amusement, I'll leave a quote from Luke 16:27-31. [blueletterbible.org]

          “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

          “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

          “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

          “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

          Point being: no amount of historical text, no matter from what book, what author, historian, etc, would be convincing.

          So there is really nothing of substance to discuss, IMO. You believe, or you don't. We can agree to disaggree, agreeably.

          --
          Reminder: March is National Procrastination Week.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @11:27PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @11:27PM (#773174)

          *Citation needed*

          Not a problem [soylentnews.org]:

          He sends his love

      • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @02:08PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @02:08PM (#772851)

        Sure. Unfortunately He sent it in a form unsuitable for human consumption, and trying to incorporate it into the human mind caused it to be converted into hate. Hopefully He has learned from His mistake and uses a more suitable form of love in further attempts.

    • (Score: 4, Funny) by Thexalon on Tuesday December 11 2018, @01:17AM (5 children)

      by Thexalon (636) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @01:17AM (#772692)

      Alternate version is the following reply:

      Dear humans,

      We got your mix tape, and while we're trying to be nice about this, packaging it with directions to your house is more than a bit creepy. Please knock it off.

      Sincerely,
      Emperor Fexhagwotmark III, Ruler of Zebnok V

      --
      The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bob_super on Tuesday December 11 2018, @01:27AM (3 children)

        by bob_super (1357) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @01:27AM (#772697)

        Well, since the directions to the house are wrong [forbes.com], we're safe from ending up on a shit list.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @02:16PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @02:16PM (#772854)

          But not the poor inhabitants of the planet which the aliens will wrongly identify as the source based on that map ...

        • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Tuesday December 11 2018, @04:53PM (1 child)

          by tangomargarine (667) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @04:53PM (#772935)

          [2)] But over time, pulsars can newly appear or disappear, which we've actually seen happen since the Voyager probes were launched. As objects rotate and orbit in space, their relative orientations change, so the pulsars that are pointing at us today won't be pointing at us millions of years in the future. Additionally, pulsars that aren't pointing at us today will be pointing at us in millions of years. Compound that with the fact that neutron stars adjust their rotation periods over time (via starquakes and pulsar speedup), and it's clear that both the periods and orientations of these pulsars change dramatically over millions of years. By the time any alien picks up our pulsar map, it will be woefully out-of-date.

          This is one of those "technically correct but completely useless" arguments physicists like to make: who is going to be around to care whether aliens find us in millions of years? As long as the map stays relatively accurate for, say, 2000 more years, that's plenty.

          1) 1.) There are likely about one billion pulsars in the Milky Way. Based on the history of stars and star-formation in the Milky Way, we've been able to determine that even though only a fraction of 1% of them go supernova, there are [...] (one billion) neutron stars. [...] To know which 14 are chosen out of one billion will be a daunting task, since pulsar periods are not unique.

          Doesn't this whole argument presuppose that the aliens have some way to get here? If they have warp drive, I think their computer can crunch some numbers to find the pulsars.

          --
          "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
          • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Tuesday December 11 2018, @05:25PM

            by bob_super (1357) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @05:25PM (#772945)

            I think the point is that those pulsars will not look exactly the same from someone else's standpoint, and it's therefore easy to misidentify which of the billions we tried to refer to.
            Having 14 on the map makes it more likely that a partial match will be found anyway, but that depends on their observation skills.

            First, the Aliens will have to recover from the horrible sight of those terrible shameful naked human drawings (if they grab Pioneer, or decode the golden record).

            > If they have warp drive, I think their computer can crunch some numbers to find the pulsars.

            We barely had computers when we went to the moon. We didn't have computers when we crossed oceans to find isolated Pacific islands. Computers are a pretty new thing to us, and may not be needed by others.

            Anyway, they'll just follow the gravity trail the probe left, all the way back to us. That's a much simpler and reliable way to track your food through space.

      • (Score: 3, Funny) by khallow on Tuesday December 11 2018, @02:09PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 11 2018, @02:09PM (#772852) Journal
        Should have put the naked pictures on the record. Then it would have been clear that our intentions were not creepy!
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @08:40PM (19 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @08:40PM (#772550)

    18 billion kilometers is about 120.3AU.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @09:10PM (7 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @09:10PM (#772569)

      16.5 lumino-gravitio hours.

      • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @10:50PM (6 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @10:50PM (#772620)

        5 minutes at warp 6

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @11:59PM (2 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @11:59PM (#772651)

          TOS scale or TNG scale?

          • (Score: 2) by isostatic on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:52AM

            by isostatic (365) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:52AM (#772683) Journal

            Nope

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @07:27AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @07:27AM (#772786)

            TOS

        • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:13AM (2 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:13AM (#772655)

          Not to be a pedant, but warp 1 is speed of light, warp 10 is infinite velocity (TNG rules) or 6^3 * C (TOS rules): http://www.anycalculator.com/warpcalculator.htm [anycalculator.com]

          • At speed C, 16.5 minutes to Voyager 2
          • TNG Warp 6: 392 * C or 2.5 seconds to Voyager 2
          • TOS Warp 6: 216 * C or 4.6 seconds to Voyager 2
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:14AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:14AM (#772656)

            "6^3 * C" should read: W^3 * C

          • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @07:30AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @07:30AM (#772788)

            It's 16 hours to V2, not minutes

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @09:14PM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @09:14PM (#772571)

      It is also about 89,460,669,138 furlongs.

      • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Monday December 10 2018, @11:14PM

        by Gaaark (41) on Monday December 10 2018, @11:14PM (#772629) Journal

        And 6 of one, half dozen of the other.

        --
        --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @03:37PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @03:37PM (#772888)

        Which is 7406032787 Rob Furlongs [wikipedia.org].
        It's a much larger number of Edward Furlongs [wikipedia.org], which is only a measure of how fast one can descend.

      • (Score: 3, Touché) by Thexalon on Tuesday December 11 2018, @05:53PM

        by Thexalon (636) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @05:53PM (#772961)

        For MIT grads, that's about 10.6x10^12 smoots.

        --
        The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Monday December 10 2018, @10:39PM (5 children)

      by DannyB (5839) on Monday December 10 2018, @10:39PM (#772605) Journal

      That's about 5.5548 x 1011 atto parsecs.

      --
      Reminder: March is National Procrastination Week.
      • (Score: 2) by PartTimeZombie on Monday December 10 2018, @11:08PM (2 children)

        by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Monday December 10 2018, @11:08PM (#772627)

        What's that in linguine?

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @11:54PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @11:54PM (#772642)

          four

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @11:34PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @11:34PM (#772633)

        How many Kessel runs is that?

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @11:56PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @11:56PM (#772645)

          More than 4.9e-5

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @02:22PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @02:22PM (#772856)

      Or 1.1·1048 Planck lengths.

      BTW, given that 18 billion kilometers has only two significant digits, identifying it with 120.3 AU is simply wrong. It's just 120 AU.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by coolgopher on Monday December 10 2018, @10:10PM (8 children)

    by coolgopher (1157) on Monday December 10 2018, @10:10PM (#772592)

    What really impresses me, aside from the longevity of these probes and the solid engineering that must've gone into them, is that it's still managing to transmit data back to us across these distances. With that directional dish I imagine it wouldn't take more than a sliver of a degree of error to completely miss our tiny pale dot.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @10:39PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @10:39PM (#772604)

      It actually gets easier to aim at earth the farther away you are since the beam is wider:
      https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/13227/how-earth-communicates-with-voyager-i [stackexchange.com]

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @11:58PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 10 2018, @11:58PM (#772648)

        I think all you have to do point at the sun.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by legont on Monday December 10 2018, @10:43PM (3 children)

      by legont (4179) on Monday December 10 2018, @10:43PM (#772613)

      The source code is, at least partially, lost https://money.cnn.com/2015/10/27/technology/voyager-nasa/ [cnn.com]

      --
      "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
      • (Score: 2) by Kilo110 on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:31AM (2 children)

        by Kilo110 (2853) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:31AM (#772667)

        I wonder what'd happen if voyager patches were publicly done online through github or something. I bet lots of really smart programmers would jump at the chance to push code to voyager.

        • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:34AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:34AM (#772670)

          Yeah but within two weeks the Ruby on Rails code pushed by a millennial programmer would break because of a dependency problem and then the Voyager would be lost forever.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by legont on Tuesday December 11 2018, @01:01AM

          by legont (4179) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @01:01AM (#772689)

          It would be nice to look at... but meantime one could get a job. The requirements are assembler, Fortran (without numbers:) and, believe it or not, COBOL https://www.geek.com/news/nasa-seeks-programmer-fluent-in-60-year-old-languages-to-work-on-voyager-1638276/ [geek.com]

          I am, or should I say used to be, proficient in all.

          --
          "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:31AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:31AM (#772668)

      Duh, they've been faking the whole thing. The data is created in North Hampford, Sussex, then bounced off the moon and picked up by a receiver in New Zealand from which it is fed into a delay circuit to simulate distance from earth before being rebroadcast one last time. Similar to how they did the video "from the moon".

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @04:33AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @04:33AM (#772751)

        The only honest money left since the voyager project began is the nickle. Quarters, dimes, half dollars, dollars should all be silver, and all higher denominations gold.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by bradley13 on Tuesday December 11 2018, @06:11AM (2 children)

    by bradley13 (3053) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @06:11AM (#772770) Homepage Journal

    dense interstellar medium

    Who writes this stuff? The Voyagers are amazing, the PR flaks less so...

    --
    Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
    • (Score: 3, Touché) by martyb on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:17PM

      by martyb (76) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @12:17PM (#772828) Journal
      You mean the PR flaks are... dense?
      =)
      --
      Wit is intellect, dancing.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @02:27PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11 2018, @02:27PM (#772859)

      Compared with the intergalactic medium, the interstellar medium is dense. Just as compared with the interstellar medium, the best vacuum we can achieve on Earth is still dense.

      Not that I think that's what the writers of the article had in mind, though.

  • (Score: 2) by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us on Tuesday December 11 2018, @09:58PM

    by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us (6553) on Tuesday December 11 2018, @09:58PM (#773122) Journal

    Oblig xkcd [xkcd.com] about its brother.

    --
    This sig for rent.
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