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posted by martyb on Thursday April 18 2019, @02:57PM   Printer-friendly
from the coasting-through-the-remnants-of-long-dead-stars dept.

The human race is now two for two with Voyager 2 being the second human made spacecraft to enter interstellar space.

The probe, which blasted into space 41 years ago, exited the outer boundary of the sun's heliosphere on Nov. 5, NASA scientists announced Monday at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington, D.C. It is now more than 11 billion miles away from Earth.

The edge of the heliosphere is a pressure front of solar winds plasma originating from the sun, and is considered the boundary between stellar and interstellar space.

Because the heliopause marks the boundary between matter originating from the Sun and matter originating from the rest of the galaxy, spacecraft such as the two Voyagers, which have departed the heliosphere, can be said to have reached interstellar space.

Voyager 1 reached interstellar space in late August of 2012. Voyager 2, which was launched 16 days after it, has taken significantly longer to get there. This is because while both Voyagers flew past Jupiter and Saturn, Voyager 1 immediately set out for the stars while Voyager 2 did flybys of Uranus and Neptune first.

Fortunately Voyager 2's plasma science instrument remains functioning (the one on Voyager 1 broke in the 1980s) so additional data was captured on this transition.

They still have a very long way to go before they leave the solar system. NASA estimates it could take 30,000 years for Voyager 2 to fly all the way through the Oort Cloud, a spherical shell of icy objects that scientists believe is a source of many comets. Only then will the solar system be in Voyager 2's rearview mirror.

They won't realize it however. Power on the two spacecraft will be exhausted in another 5-10 years at which point they will become as dark and cold as last week's coffee.


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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: 4, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Thursday April 18 2019, @03:06PM (5 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday April 18 2019, @03:06PM (#831668)

    Last week's coffee, even if left outside in Antarctica, is significantly warmer than interstellar space.

    If dark is measured on a relative scale (as it should be), the Voyagers may still be quite a bit brighter than their surrounding Oort objects. If, however, we're talking about absolute brightness: reflected incident photons, then, the Voyagers have been darker than last week's coffee, at least in the visible spectrum, probably since passing Jupiter.

    --
    🌻 [google.com]
    • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Thursday April 18 2019, @03:30PM (1 child)

      by Thexalon (636) on Thursday April 18 2019, @03:30PM (#831678)

      If dark is measured on a relative scale (as it should be)

      As a perfect example of this done properly, consider the following quote: "There's something about this that's so black, it's like how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black." - Nigel Tufnel

      --
      The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 18 2019, @05:15PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 18 2019, @05:15PM (#831724)

      > Last week's coffee, even if left outside in Antarctica, is significantly warmer than interstellar space.

      And yet, if you have electronics on board that generate heat faster than it can radiate away.... eventually you'll melt titanium. Space, what a lovely place let's all go there.

      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday April 18 2019, @06:33PM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday April 18 2019, @06:33PM (#831794)

        It's actually much more predictable - although radiating heat into air is more efficient, it has many more variables and a nasty tendency to carry dust and cause corrosion.

        --
        🌻 [google.com]
      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday April 18 2019, @06:58PM

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Thursday April 18 2019, @06:58PM (#831812) Journal

        New launchers could carry larger payloads, capable of including better cooling (closed liquid cooling, more radiators, etc.)

        If humans are sent, atmosphere will come along for the ride and could be used to radiate heat.

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
  • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 18 2019, @04:17PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 18 2019, @04:17PM (#831692)

    Um, Voyager 2 was launched first:

    • Voyager 1, an unmanned spacecraft launched September 5, 1977
    • Voyager 2, an unmanned spacecraft launched August 20, 1977

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyager [wikipedia.org]

    • (Score: 2) by opinionated_science on Thursday April 18 2019, @04:48PM

      by opinionated_science (4031) on Thursday April 18 2019, @04:48PM (#831705)

      I still find it amazing this was the plot of the Star Trek movie...set 4 centuries in the future!!

    • (Score: 2) by realDonaldTrump on Friday April 19 2019, @10:37PM

      by realDonaldTrump (6614) on Friday April 19 2019, @10:37PM (#832340) Homepage Journal

      Boy, I love reading WikiPedia. This WikiPedia is like a treasure trove. I have learned so much from WikiPedia. And hopefully Julian will get a VERY FAIR trial. And an Execution that's not too painful. But, painful enough to DETER the others!!!!

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 18 2019, @04:33PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 18 2019, @04:33PM (#831695)

    Postcard or it didn't happen.

  • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 18 2019, @05:57PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 18 2019, @05:57PM (#831763)

    DEC 10, 2018 | 2:40 PM

    Talk about yesterday's news.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 18 2019, @05:59PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 18 2019, @05:59PM (#831765)

    ...as long as it took to get here

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