Voyager 1″: go where ever gone before





Space research probe “Voyager”, launched in 1977, in all aspects of a pensioner. Its equipment is turned more than 36 years, according to computer time – a century. Nevertheless, it still allows you to surf the probe interstellar space, scientists hope that the probe will be able to work for at least another 10-15 years. What also helps “Voyager” in their journey to conduct scientific observations and transmit the data back to Earth?


It looked like a computer control center during the time of testing “Voyager”

“Here on Earth, we are trying to use the newest technology,” – says the engineer Suzanne Dodd, manager of the “Voyager” at JPL, pointing to the fact that most of the team of scientists working on the most powerful computers Mac.

Suzanne said that she joined the project in 1984, at a time when scientists used the coolest computers of that time – with support for 8-inch floppy disk drives. But the interesting thing is that the very “Voyager 1” and “Voyager 2” refers to an even earlier age.

“Because at the moment,” Voyager 1 “is the most distant man-made object from us, which is located at a distance of 19 billion miles from Earth, we can not just take, take it to an electronics store and make an upgrade” – laughing Dodd .

Each of the “Voyager” is only for 69.64 kilobytes of memory. That’s enough to save, for example, the average one file format jpeg. Scientific same data that was collected probes still recorded on old 8-pin digital magnetic tape and not for modern SSDs, which can be found today in almost every home computer. Therefore, whenever the probes transmit information on Earth, they erase the old recording and the new recording on top of them information.

Computers “Voyager” are able to handle about 81 thousand instructions per second. By the way a smartphone, you can now hold in your hand, only to 7500 times faster. Probes transmit data to the Earth at a rate of 160 bps. Even the most decrepit and slow dial-up, which can be found on Earth today, transmits information at a rate of 20,000 bits per second.

In general, “Voyagers” continuously and without interruption pass any new signals to Earth. “Voyager 1” this helps the transmitter power 22.4 W, which is equivalent to, for example, the power of light bulbs installed in your refrigerator. Now imagine that the power of the signal that you want to reach us, falls to 0.1 Billion Watts. To somehow strengthen his, NASA uses to probe two 34-meter antennas. And in order to just get a message from the probe, the agency has to engage in the world 70-meter dish!


A team of scientists every day sends and receives signals from the probe “Voyager 1” and “Voyager 2”. But even the most seemingly routine daily check of all systems for problems is with NASA engineers at 4:00. There are, of course, a good day, when the second half of the day they are still able to spend on it to receive signals from the probes and send them to the new team.

On the software side, the probes originally used software that was written in the programming language Fortran 5. Later, the system was ported to Fortran 77. And now, despite the fact that some software still runs on Fortran, the rest of the equipment has been ported to a more modern programming language C.


Photo of internal components of the “Voyager” during its assembly

Part of the secret of this longevity of the probes is that they were built with the use of back-up equipment. Each probe has two computers, which perform the same operation. It is as if we have launched two rovers’ Kyuriositi “on Mars. Imagine how much productivity would be increased in this case.

However, the last time in “Voyager” things are not going very well. Some of the equipment breaks down during the trip, some were specifically disabled to conserve power. A total of 11 of the original instrument, which is equipped with the same “Voyager 1”, now in operation are only five: the spectrometer UV region of the spectrum, a magnetometer, a detector of charged particles, cosmic ray detector system and plasma waves. But as time goes on and more and more likely the chance that the equipment will be damaged.

“We are always one step away from the end of the already overlong mission” – says Dodd.

Even so, the probes already done a great job, even surpassing the expectations of the creators. Dodd says that the engineers who created the “Voyager” is then believed that interstellar space is the dream would be too optimistic idea, and it would be better to focus on the study of Jupiter and Saturn.

“But scientists subsequently ignored these instructions, arguing that interstellar space is too tempting target, and have done everything possible to get to it,” – she added.

During the time they left, both “Voyager” will continue to collect and transmit back to Earth the data for at least another to 2020 or maybe 2025. Even if they break something and receive commands from Earth, they can not, the devices automatically continue to send data back to Earth, and will repeat this procedure as long as they have not completely finished food.

But radioisotope battery “Voyager 1” and “Voyager 2” is not endless. Each year, on average, they lose their four watts of power. And one monitoring station in the world will have to make difficult choices – what a tool probes off and which to leave for future work. Thus, year after year will turn off their equipment. Scientists believe that up until 2036 the probes will be in the range of the antennas to receive signals. Although during this period the Earth is likely there will be no act is no scientific data sets, “Voyadezhery” probably be able to send us information about your condition, if so, of course, enough food. But while working with them is not yet complete.

“We have just crossed the threshold of interstellar space,” – says Dodd.

“We only got to the line of the horizon, and no doubt there will be more many discoveries . ”

I hope that after many, many years, “Voyager 1” did not once come back to us as a sort of cosmic entity “Vi-Jer.” It’s better as a museum exhibit.
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