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Sometimes We Do Something Right

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Artist concept of Voyager 1. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Voyager I is operational again and sending back data about interstellar space. It suffered an outage six months ago, possibly because of a hit by a cosmic particle that the Sun’s influence protects us from. Voyager is now outside that protective influence.

Voyager was launched in 1977. Its software is that old. It has traveled so far in 47 years that its signals take almost a full 24 hours to reach Earth. And it keeps on going, into a region that no other earthly spacecraft has reached.

It was expected to last for four years, but it was well built, and so far the operations crew has been able to coax it over difficulties. It has six more years until it reaches a hard deadline: the plutonium-238 that powers its electrical generators with its decay heat will no longer be hot enough to run them.

Or it may be hit by more cosmic particles.

It’s a nice continuity with our earlier expectations of space and technology. The engineers and technicians who designed and built it and now maintain it have done a great job.

Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner

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