“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

33 Years After Launch, Voyager is 10.8 Billion Miles Away and Still Alive

You Have to Listen To This

LA Times
From Voyager 1 comes cutting-edge science on solar wind

More than three decades after the spacecraft launched, it sends data from the edge of the solar system proving theorists wrong: Solar wind does not curtail sharply in that region after all, but rather moves in a different direction.

Voyager 1, the little spacecraft that could, is nearing the edge of the solar system and continuing to prove theorists wrong about solar wind — the massive outflow of particles produced by the sun.

The tiny spacecraft, launched 33 years ago, is now 10.8 billion miles from Earth and has reached the region of the solar system where the hot ionized gas, or plasma, emitted by the sun is ramming into the cold gas and dust of interstellar space and changing direction, curling around to envelope the solar system in a giant cloud called the heliosphere.

As a result, the solar wind is no longer going in the same direction as Voyager, but virtually perpendicular to it, and the spacecraft is actually measuring a small inward speed of the ionized gas, said Edward Stone of Caltech, the Voyager 1 project scientist.

Researchers first detected that inward speed in June, when Voyager was about 10.6 billion miles from Earth, but have taken measurements for another four months to ensure that they had not simply encountered an area of localized turbulence, said Tom Krimigis of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, the principal investigator for the instrument that collects the solar wind data.

Krimigis presented the data Tuesday at a San Francisco meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Once the solar wind crashes into the interstellar medium and circles back in the heliosphere, it eventually forms a giant tail like a comet before dissipating into the void, Stone said. Voyager has been in this region for six years, traveling about 35,000 mph, he said, "and I expect it will be there for another four."

Previous models of the solar wind predicted that it would drop off sharply once it encountered the interstellar medium, "but it hasn't dropped off a cliff," Krimigis said.

The models had also predicted that many years ago Voyager would have crossed a region called the termination shock, where the solar wind dramatically slows down. But that didn't occur until 2004, he said.

"The track record between theory and observation is essentially 0-for-theory," he said.

That poor showing doesn't faze Stone. "This is the first time we have actually had data to inform our models and better understand how the sun is interacting with [the] outside," he said, and that should help scientists build much better models.

Krimigis added that researchers might alter the path of Voyager to send it into an area where the solar wind is being funneled by its collision with the interstellar medium. At its current distance from the Earth, it takes about 15.5 hours to send a command to the spacecraft and a similar time to receive an acknowledgment.

Voyager 1 and its little sister, Voyager 2, were launched in 1977 to tour the outer planets of the solar system. Voyager 2 is currently heading in a different direction at 38,000 mph and is 8.8 billion miles from Earth. "There is no doubt" that both of the vessels will leave the heliosphere, Stone said. "The only question is, will they have electrical power" when they do?

The Voyagers are powered by the radioactive isotope plutonium-238. As long as the instruments survive, power will remain available to at least some of them until about 2020. "They have been remarkably durable," he said.


  1. This should make you angry every time you hear some fool complain that the space exploration program is a waste of money.

    It is sad that we frittered away our lead in space exploration, but it is not too late to reclaim it.

    Open another screen and listen to this amazing piece of what we are.

  2. And here is all the proof that is needed:

    "The track record between theory and observation is essentially 0-for-theory," he said.

    Think about that, all the theory upset by sceientifc engineering and observation. Far Out.

  3. I can't stop listening to this. It really is a space symphony.

  4. The total cost of the Voyager mission from May 1972 through the Neptune encounter (including launch vehicles, radioactive power source (RTGs), and DSN tracking support) is 865 million dollars. At first, this may sound very expensive, but the fantastic returns are a bargain when we place the costs in the proper perspective. It is important to realize that:

    on a per-capita basis, this is only 8 cents per U.S. resident per year, or roughly half the cost of one candy bar each year since project inception.

  5. You wrote, "Fuck you both."

    Melody, I am sorry, again, with frank truth.

    I am sorry.

    I am glad to see that we out in space again.

    If you remember, I wrote Rufus a whole lot of stuff bout space.

  6. Lead in space?

    We have the best satellite networks, both commo and GPS that money can buy.

    Most hardened against EPM shocks, which may come from the 2012 sun spot cycle.

    The distances to the asteroid belt makes mining that asset problematic, at present. I am not aware of any mining operations planned for the moon.

    Space tourism, a novelty for rich real estate developers, more than a thriving industry, seems to me.

    So, where does the "Lead" lead US to? The knowledge that solar winds behave in a manner that was not predicted, interesting, but not worthy of a 3/4 of a billion bucks, really.

    Maybe other aspects of its voyage have made the mission worthwhile, an accumulation of knowledge over 33 years at a small price, comparatively speaking.

    But the next step, should not be government run, nor funded.

  7. I do not see any lead that's been squandered or frittered away.

    That there is no "next" on the Federal gravy train, a good thing.

    Let Mr Branson keep the dream alive, he and Burt Rutan are doing a fine job, leading the next generation of Star Trekkers

  8. Deuce said,
    Think about that, all the theory upset by sceientifc engineering and observation. Far Out.

    Tue Dec 14, 08:05:00 PM EST

    That is science. Computer models are voodoo.

  9. Oh I forgot my Christmas song for the day. Since Whit was all up in Sheryl Crow's face the last week this one is for you.

  10. Sending Voyager was equivalent to planting hundreds of thousands of seedlings and returning in a few hundred years. We have no idea what a return on our investment will be.

  11. Not you…him..I don't want to ruffle anyone's feathers for incorrect grammar.

  12. Rocket scientist Haeussermann dies in US at 96

    14 December 2010, HUNTSVILLE, Alabama - A member of the team of former Nazi German rocket scientists who helped America send a man to the moon, Walter Haeusserman, has died in Alabama. He was 96.

    Haeusserman, who died Dec. 8 in Huntsville, was buried Monday in a private service. The Huntsville Times, which first reported his death, said he died at Huntsville Hospital of complications from a fall. He is survived by his wife, Ruth.

    Haeusserman was with Dr. Wernher von Braun at Pennemunde, the German site where V-2 rockets were built in World War II. He joined the team of scientists and engineers who worked on America’s space program at Huntsville after the war.

    He was in charge of guidance and control systems for rockets that landed American astronauts on the moon in 1969.

  13. desert rat said...
    Lead in space?

    I wonder why listen to this guy at all...

    His arguments are like some sort of mel gibson/pat buchanan rational....

    He is totally worng on most issues and just bullies his opinion ON EVERYTHING...

    Reminds me of a Cliff Clavin from Cheers...

    Self appointed EXPERT on EVERYTHING.

  14. Allen wrote of Rat on the previous thread... To good to miss...

    Nope, I started with the Holbrooke pieces and "ANTI-SEMITISM". As is your wont, you attempted to change the subject.

    I did not and do not contest what I am, Semitic, just as you should not as the member of another Semitic family.

    Remember, rat, the yud beginning the name, Ishmael, is the masculine, singular, future tense (He will). The suffix "el" is the all encompassing Semitic word for G-d. Thus, "He [G-d] will..." What?

    With your vast knowledge of Semitic etymology, I will leave the conclusion to you. Don't keep us waiting, because the answer will be surprising, Rat ben Ishmael.

  15. Stuxnet virus set back Iran’s nuclear program by 2 years'
    12/15/2010 05:15

    Top German computer consultant tells 'Post' virus was as effective as military strike, a huge success; widespread speculation says IDF MI Unit 8200 may have been possible creator.

    “It will take two years for Iran to get back on track,” Langer said in a telephone interview from his office in Hamburg, Germany. “This was nearly as effective as a military strike, but even better since there are no fatalities and no full-blown war. From a military perspective, this was a huge success.”

    Langer spoke to the Post amid news reports that the virus was still infecting Iran’s computer systems at its main uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and its reactor at Bushehr.

    Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog, said that Iran had suspended work at its nuclear-field production facilities, likely a result of the Stuxnet virus.

  16. Nazis promised grand mufti of J'lem Haj Amin al-Husseini leadership of Palestine after slaughter of its Jews, according to US report.

    NEW YORK – A newly released report by the US National Archives details the close collaborative relationship between Nazi leaders and the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, indicating that Nazi authorities planned to use Husseini as their leader after their conquest of Palestine.

    Husseini was paid handsomely by the Nazis for his efforts, recruited Muslims for the SS and was promised that he would be made Palestine’s leader after its Jewish population of 350,000 had been murdered.

    So after the war, the UN OFFERED the arabs a state..

    and the Jews accepted their state, and the Arabs????

    SAID NO...

    AND attacked and LOST...


    The jackals that lived in the PURPLE LOST a war they started and now thier PURPLE has shrunk..


    Over and over again...

    War after WAR...

    the arabs KEEP losing and the PURPLE SHRINKS..

    AInt PURPLE the COLOR of GAYS?

    Does this mean, that the Palestinians (no P in arabic of course) are gay?

    Not that there is anything wrong with that....

    But it does explain their anger and rage...

    being GAY in a Moslem Nation is not advisable...

    We all know Arafat was gay and died of AIDS...

    Maybe that's the big secret...

    Palestine IS Gay....

    It's just one BIG Freak SHow...

    It's raining MEN, has a whole new meaning...

  17. Melody, you, me, Sam and Quirk got to go to a counselor. Allen and WiO too.

    Rufus can sing Christmas songs, and sit by the door.

    rat gets his butt in a jail

    Or I will threaten to write another poem.

  18. No kidding, Allen, the daughter of von lives right out of Moscow, I am not kidding you.

    It's a small world.

  19. Pretty cool.

    So what's the noise?

    Solar wind whistling through Voyagers instruments?

  20. The complex interactions of the cosmic plasma of the universe, charged electromagnetic particles from the solar wind, planetary magnetosphere, rings and moons create vibration soundscapes which are at once utterly alien and deeply familiar to the ear.

  21. .

    Melody, you, me, Sam and Quirk got to go to a counselor.

    What is it Bobbo? Looking for someone to hold your hand?

    Mel is an "up" kind of person but I don't think that qualifies her as manic. And while she doesn't find certain things amusing I don't think that indicates depression.

    Sam is probably the most normal guy here (with the possible exception of those metrosexual tendancies but then they are likely just a sign of the times).

    As for myself, I have already been to a counselor.

    I think I was able to do her some good.


  22. :)

    Normal? Probably not.

    I drink too much.

    I play the horses too much.

    I get bored easy. When I'm bored and by myself in the house with nothing to do I drink and pace back and forth. Not very healthy.

    I look at women too much.

    I've got an addictive personality.

    I can't sleep at night.

    I shave my crotch. Thanks to this dummy buddy of mine. 'Pretty soon chicks are going to be demanding that shit', he says. You're right, probably sign of the times.


    But I like being outside and being active and having fun.

  23. .

    Like I said, pretty normal.


  24. .

    I get bored easy. When I'm bored and by myself in the house with nothing to do I drink and pace back and forth. Not very healthy...

    Don't be so hard on yourself. There are things you could be doing when you get bored that can make you go blind.


  25. Wow.

    That first audio clip was an unexpected and thorough delight.

    The human body does have its variation of the cat's purr, doesn't it?

    You should have dimmed the "light" here in the comments section.

    That would have been a nice touch.

    Encourage serenity, you know.

  26. What's just as amazing is that it lasts. For awhile anyway.

  27. As for myself, I have already been to a counselor.

    It don't show, yet.


  28. I'm aiming that at Quirk, not Trish.

    That was aimed at Quirk.

    Trish is sane.

    Quirk lives in Detroit.

  29. the greatness of the voyager missions lies in the fact that they have been the longest serving and the farthest serving spacecrafts .voyager2 even proved that the solar system is dented.and what more it was made and launched even before we had proper computers,cell phones etc.the brains behind the mission should be saluted at this great event

  30. Sudheer has a very impressive blog. Please takes a look. I will link it.The Scientific Orchard

  31. Just because I'm hyper on some days and others I have the leave-me-the-fuck-alone attitude doesn't put in the bi-polar category.

    And the "school zone asshole" sign I hang out of the car window when someone beeps at me doesn't mean I'm crazy.