Topic: Voyager - The Ultimate Remote Communication Device

On my continuing quest to get RF working in the entire Audioholics showcase home so I can operate all of my theater equipment from the furthest reaches of my bathroom, I am perplexed that I still don’t have a 100% reliable system. Meanwhile, over 30 years ago, NASA successfully launched two Voyager probes that are, to this day, still fully functional and transmitting signals back to earth at over 3 times the distance of Pluto! With that, they even included records made from solid gold in hopes to assimilate aliens into the wonderful world of audiophile nirvana or the non tech geeks may refer to as neurosis.

NASA's two venerable Voyager spacecraft are celebrating three decades of flight as they head toward interstellar space. Their ongoing odysseys mark an unprecedented and historic accomplishment. Voyager 2 launched on Aug. 20, 1977, and Voyager 1 launched on Sept. 5, 1977. They continue to return information from distances more than three times farther away than Pluto.

"The Voyager mission is a legend in the annals of space exploration. It opened our eyes to the scientific richness of the outer solar system, and it has pioneered the deepest exploration of the sun's domain ever conducted," said Alan Stern, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. "It's a testament to Voyager's designers, builders and operators that both spacecraft continue to deliver important findings more than 25 years after their primary mission to Jupiter and Saturn concluded."

During their first dozen years of flight, the Voyagers made detailed explorations of Jupiter, Saturn, and their moons, and conducted the first explorations of Uranus and Neptune. The Voyagers returned never-before-seen images and scientific data, making fundamental discoveries about the outer planets and their moons. The spacecraft revealed Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere, which includes dozens of interacting hurricane-like storm systems, and erupting volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io. They also showed waves and fine structure in Saturn's icy rings from the tugs of nearby moons.

For the past 18 years, the twin Voyagers have been probing the sun's outer heliosphere and its boundary with interstellar space. Both Voyagers remain healthy and are returning scientific data 30 years after their launches.

Voyager 1 currently is the farthest human-made object, traveling at a distance from the sun of about 15.5 billion kilometers (9.7 billion miles). Voyager 2 is about 12.5 billion kilometers (7.8 billion miles) from the sun. Originally designed as a four-year mission to Jupiter and Saturn, the Voyager tours were extended because of their successful achievements and a rare planetary alignment. The two-planet mission eventually became a four-planet grand tour. After completing that extended mission, the two spacecraft began the task of exploring the outer heliosphere.

"The Voyager mission has opened up our solar system in a way not possible before the Space Age," said Edward Stone, Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. "It revealed our neighbors in the outer solar system and showed us how much there is to learn and how diverse the bodies are that share the solar system with our own planet Earth."

In December 2004, Voyager 1 began crossing the solar system's final frontier. Called the heliosheath, this turbulent area, approximately 14 billion kilometers (8.7 billion miles) from the sun, is where the solar wind slows as it crashes into the thin gas that fills the space between stars. Voyager 2 could reach this boundary later this year, putting both Voyagers on their final leg toward interstellar space.

Each spacecraft carries five fully functioning science instruments that study the solar wind, energetic particles, magnetic fields and radio waves as they cruise through this unexplored region of deep space. The spacecraft are too far from the sun to use solar power. They run on less than 300 watts, the amount of power needed to light up a bright light bulb or a modest home theater receiver. Their long-lived radioisotope thermoelectric generators provide the power.

"The continued operation of these spacecraft and the flow of data to the scientists is a testament to the skills and dedication of the small operations team," said Ed Massey, Voyager project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Massey oversees a team of nearly a dozen people in the day-to-day Voyager spacecraft operations.

The Voyagers call home via NASA's Deep Space Network, a system of antennas around the world. The spacecraft are so distant that commands from Earth, traveling at light speed, take 14 hours one-way to reach Voyager 1 and 12 hours to reach Voyager 2. Each Voyager logs approximately 1 million miles per day. Now that’s what I call fast (over 41,000mph [65983kph])!

Each of the Voyagers carries a golden record that is a time capsule with greetings, images and sounds from Earth. So if aliens intercept our probe, they will interpret us humans as being audiophiles. The records also have directions on how to find Earth if the spacecraft is recovered by something or someone. This also makes it easier for assimilation should the aliens be hostile or wish to convert us to all to listening to compressed music streams.

NASA's latest outer planet exploration mission is New Horizons, which is now well past Jupiter and headed for a historic exploration of the Pluto system in July 2015.

For a complete listing of Voyager discoveries and mission information, visit the Internet at: and

JPL manages the Voyager mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. NASA's Lewis Research Center (now Glenn Research Center) in Cleveland, Ohio, managed the launches of the Voyager spacecraft. … ion-device Wow 41,000mph, that's pretty damned fast.

For point of reference, that's 53 times faster than the speed of sound, and just a bit slower than the Earth's average orbital speed of 66,622.18mph. But as fast as that is, compared to the speed of light, it is nothing. Light is still 16,356.5 times faster than the Voyager probes. But a million miles a day, that ain't bad speed at all. And who said slingshoting around planets couldn't get you anywhere.

Of course I don't know which is more bewildering. The fact that the probes are traveling a million miles a day, or the fact that the Earth is traveling over 60% faster

2 (edited by Halo2 2007-08-30 12:06:05)

Re: Voyager - The Ultimate Remote Communication Device

You trying to sell us one of these too? tongue

But in space when you accelerate and object there's not much to stop it, unlike on earth where there's air resistance etc. so things can get up to ridiculous speeds. But of course you have the same problem slowing them down, you need approx. the same amount of energy as you put in...

Another thing is the trajectory, (obviously they have massive computers to work it out), if they were a thousandth of a degree out, and it travelled for a day (1 million miles), just think how far away from the correct point it would be!


3 (edited by mlin 2007-08-30 12:43:18)

Re: Voyager - The Ultimate Remote Communication Device

For the ones that watch scfi not only for the SFX this is great news. My heart always beats faster when I hear about thinghs such as this. The vast unknown... space exploration is soo romantic wink



You trying to sell us one of these too?

haha you've hit the spot big_smile

Re: Voyager - The Ultimate Remote Communication Device

Funny enough Halo2, the computer you are using now just to surf the net, is probably several hundred times more powerful than the one they used to plot the trajectory for these probes.

Think about it. They launched these probes 30 years ago in the late 1970s. So the original trajectories were computed by mainframes built in the mid to late 1970s. By today's terms, a modern scientific calculator has more processing power. As long as you could get all the digits to show up on the screen, you have more than enough power to calculate the initial trajectory.

And then in the 1980s when they altered the trajectories to point the probes to the outer heliosphere, they probably used mainframes from that decade. In today's terms, you've got more processing power in a PDA or a smartphone.

If you went all the way back to 1977 with the PC you used to type your post, you'd affectively have the world's most powerful super computer. And the best part is, it fits into a little box, and does not take up an entire room requiring its own industrial strength HVAC unit to keep it cool enough to run . . . and you can spit your results out on a miniSD card, not on a crate full of punch cards or a miles worth of ribbon.

Now that's technological progress.

Were we to build similar a probe today, with the same power requirements of 300 watts, the things it would be capable of doing, would be simply amazing in comparison. We could just include an Xbox 360 and a copy of Halo 3 and any aliens who found the probe would know not to screw with us when they finally got to Earth for fear of our SPARTAN program lol

Re: Voyager - The Ultimate Remote Communication Device

unfettered one wrote:

Were we to build similar a probe today, with the same power requirements of 300 watts, the things it would be capable of doing, would be simply amazing in comparison. We could just include an Xbox 360 and a copy of Halo 3 and any aliens who found the probe would know not to screw with us when they finally got to Earth for fear of our SPARTAN program lol

Actually that's not necessarily true tongue
Almost every modern CPU is not space compatible and would melt in outta space. So if aliens would find those Xbox 360 after it traveled some years through space they would wonder why those stupid humanoids send this non working junk into space. Maybe they would think that's our way to solve trash issues big_smile
And you don't need to have a quad core hyper threading CPU or 2GB RAM to calculate and store trajectories or similar... wink
For all those things the 70's stuff they used is quite perfect in usefulness and technology smile

Re: Voyager - The Ultimate Remote Communication Device

True, you would never need much computing power to calculate the trajectories; I've said as much, remember all that stuff about pocket calculators having more processing power than the mainframes of the day. Also, trajectories are not calculated aboard the probes. The trajectories are calculated on computers at mission control, or whatever command center they are using to monitor the probe. The only time you'd ever need to calculate the trajectory from the probe, would be either as a last effort redundancy or if the probe ever found itself off course and needed to make a course correction on it's own. But that is just one more thing that todays computers have the power to do, that computers in 1977 did not, running a program that could make a judgment call like that on it's own and then act on it if need be. I used to hang around the computer science department at MIT, when I lived in Boston, and you'd be surprised what they can now do with A-Life based AIs, on relatively little computing power. Running the right program, having a "smart" probe in space would ultimately work out to be a lot more efficient than just sending up another remote controlled "dummy" like those from the Voyage program.

And it does not end there. How about all the new ways we have for gathering and processing data that simply did not exist in 1977 when they launched the Voyager probes? There are a billion new tests we can run, and you are going to need a pretty nice piece of on-board computer to run them. And even taking into account having to build space worthy computer parts, what we can accomplish now on 300 watts of power consumption, is light-years beyond what they were able to accomplish in 1977.

Fact of the matter is, we can build better, smarter and more efficient probes now. Heck in terms of materials alone, we have come a very long way since 1977. We also have a much better understanding of our solar system now, and can even implement ideas like capturing the solar winds as a form of "free" constant acceleration (up until the probe has crossed beyond the heliosphere) and actually have new probes achieve much faster velocities than the originals.

My point is, that with today's technologies, there are virtually a million ways we can make better tools to explore. Think of it like this. Comparing what we were capable of learning with the IRAS (1983) vs. what we are capable of learning with Spitzer (2003). There is a whole world of difference there, and that is from something as simple as orbital space telescopes built and launched 20 years apart. An actual planetary and deep space probe built over 30 years apart, the amount of data and new information we could gather would be light-years beyond what we are learning with Voyager; especially when you consider that neither of the Voyagers were ever built to be deep space probes, so there are all manner of testing equipment, that was even available in 1977, that simply never made it into the design, much less actually put to work out at the edge of our solar system. What's even cooler, is where once upon a time, all this extra (and included) equipment would have added extra bulk and weight and moving parts to the probes, today most of that stuff, and a lot more that was not available then, can be executed directly from silicon. You just need computer processing power that was not even dreamed of back then, to run them.

Re: Voyager - The Ultimate Remote Communication Device

despite you guys' tech talk.. it's still romantic tongue