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Voyager 2's closest Saturn swoop was 35 years ago today

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Pint

Wonderful achievement

I remember the excitement well. I followed all the Mariner, Pioneer, Viking, and Voyager programmes avidly, mainly in the National Geographic magazine. Really inspiring. The images sent back by these probes were so stunningly detailed.

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A stellar achievement

No, an INTERstellar achievement.

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Re: A stellar achievement

You mean interplanetary, right?

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Re: A stellar achievement

"You mean interplanetary, right?"

Both craft are beyond any known planets in our system, and outside of the plane of their orbits, so I think interstellar might be a good description of them now.

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39 years old, still working, and — despite being unimaginable distances away — we can still communicate with them: Voyager(s) has to be one of mankind's greatest achievements to date? Tip of the hat for sure.

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Space is big...I mean, really big

Yesterday I was reading about how we'd discovered a planet that was potentially supporting life and was "close to Earth" at only 4 light years away. The fact that these probes have been in transit for 25 years and are only 15 light *hours* away kind of speaks volumes about the vastness of space.

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Re: Space is big...I mean, really big

They've been in transit 39 yrs (give or take) since launch in 1977 - and are between 15 and 18.5 light hours away...so, not very far !!

I hope I get my calculations right THIS time !!

So, if humans were travelling at the same speed as Voyager, my back of a fag packet calculation is that it'd take 91,104 years to get to Proxima b

4 LYrs = 35,040 LHrs

35,040 / 15 LHrs = 2336

2336 * 39 years = 91,104 !!

Space is VERY BIG !!

PS 16,667,718,000 km in 39 yrs (or 341,640 hrs) is (approx) 48,787 km / hr - hardly "slow", but nowhere near "warp speed" !!

PPS This doesn't take into account that both Voyagers were sling-shotted around the Solar System, prior to their final trajectory...so some of the above calculations are very inaccurate !!

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Re: Space is big...I mean, really big

Yep. Really, really big (to paraphrase Mr Adams)..

Take a look at the 'Riding Light' video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AAU_btBN7s

30-minute video & nothing much happens. Be prepared to get bored...

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Nice reference ;-)

What an achievement and thanks for providing the reference to the very original Star Trek film. That made me chuckle.

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Windows

Re: Nice reference ;-)

Some of us SAW IT IN-THEATRE!

Have a gander at the animation of the Voyager 2 Saturn flyby using top-end graphics code and hardware. Not sure this is the one called "Voyager 2 - Blinn et al." presented at Siggraph '79, as accoording to Jim Blinn's page, there was a presentation at Siggraph '82. Time entropizes memories...

Instead of Brian Eno, the applicable music shoudl either be Lux Aeterna or the Jerry Goldsmith's intro to Alien, not sure which.

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How big is a few?

"Voyager 1 launched on September 5th, 1977, a few days after Voyager 2's August 20th, ascent."

...so a 'few' days is a little over two weeks. Hmm...

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Re: How big is a few?

After 39 years, a couple of weeks is still just a few days.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How big is a few?

The galaxy rotated just a little bit in between.

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Shorely we wouldn't coast all the way?

Space IS big, the distances boggle my monkey brain. However, if us biological types were to visit a 4LY distant star, surely we would use some sort of continuous drive. I believe the usual plan is accelerate to halfway then decelerate to destination. Assume we don't have gravity generators yet, and could thrust at a constant 1G acceleration both ways. How long would that take? Still a long time, but better.

Of course there are two answers to that problem. How long would it seem to the time-dilated crew, and how long would it take in the external universe? I'm curious but my math skillz are not sufficient to figure it out.

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Re: Shorely we wouldn't coast all the way?

Third question: How big would those fuel tanks have to be?

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Holmes

Re: Shorely we wouldn't coast all the way?

> Assume we don't have gravity generators yet

The only way to "generate gravity" is to pack a shitload of mass~energy into a small volume (because gravity and shitloads of stuff are essentially two sides of the same coin). Smells strongly like "no gravity generator in this universe", sorry!

As for the res,t according to

http://nathangeffen.webfactional.com/spacetravel/spacetravel.php

1G to Proxima with a perfect fusion motor (0.008 kg/m² fuel conversion) to put 25 tons into Proxima at rest (i.e. not zip through) will have you reach speed 0.95c at midpoint, will be 42 month ship time and will cost you 117'916 tons of fuel at start (this is the mass of one Israeli apple crop export).

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Re: Shorely we wouldn't coast all the way?

I would like to note that the idea of constant 1G acceleration is a bit stupid as you would need vastly oversized motors to accelerate all that fuel mass at trip's start, whereas a trip's end you are down to a few tons so very much smaller motors would suffice. Better choose constant thrust for engineering reasons.

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Re: Shorely we wouldn't coast all the way?

Shore being a good word - on account of how easily they are eroded. One of the problems with travelling at high speed is the damage very small bits of floating around shit cause. Meteors the size of tiny grains of sand hitting the atmosphere at 70Km/s are visible for thousands of miles - they punch through anything. The planned(?) travel speed to the nearest star would be 1000 times that. The kinetic energy of a grain of sand would be a million times that of the meteorites - so around a small nuclear weapon going off on your hull - focused on an area less than a pin head.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Shorely we wouldn't coast all the way?

That's why you want to send copies ... many, many copies! (Preceded by dense clouds of dust to clean up anything that can be cleaned up, I would imagine)

Waiting to be cloned one thousand times and scattered across ten million cubic light-years, Paolo Venetti relaxed in his favorite ceremonial bathtub: a tiered hexagonal pool set in a courtyard of black marble flecked with gold. (…) As the moment of diaspora approached, a small gray lizard darted across the courtyard, claws scrabbling. It halted by the far edge of the pool, and Paolo marveled at the delicate pulse of its breathing, and watched the lizard watching him, until it moved again, disappearing into the surrounding vineyards. (…) No one had asked the lizards if they wanted to be cloned, though. They were coming along for the ride, like it or not.

The sky above the courtyard was warm and blue, cloudless and sunless, isotropic. Paolo waited calmly, prepared for every one of half a dozen possible fates.

An invisible bell chimed softly, three times. Paolo laughed, delighted.

One chime would have meant that he was still on Earth: an anti-climax, certainly - but there would have been advantages to compensate for that. Everyone who really mattered to him lived in the Carter-Zimmerman polis, but not all of them had chosen to take part in the diaspora to the same degree; his Earth-self would have lost no one. (…)

Two chimes would have meant that this clone of Carter-Zimmerman had reached a planetary system devoid of life. Paolo had run a sophisticated but non-sapient self-predictive model before deciding to wake under those conditions. (...) Four chimes would have signaled the discovery of intelligent aliens. Five, a technological civilization. Six, spacefarers.

Three chimes, though, meant that the scout probes had detected unambiguous signs of life - and that was reason enough for jubilation. Up until the moment of the pre-launch cloning - a subjective instant before the chimes had sounded - no reports of alien life had ever reached Earth. There'd been no guarantee that any part of the diaspora would find it....

(From: "Wang’s Carpets" by Greg Egan. Published 1995 in “New Legends”, edited by Greg Bear and Martin H. Greenberg. A modified version of this story appears in Greg Egan's Novel “Diaspora”, 1998)

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Re: Shorely we wouldn't coast all the way?

Depends on what sort of technology is availiabe. Sure, right now everything needed for a convenient ride is fantasy - but so were carts that didn't need to be pulled or living past thirty once.

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Re: Shorely we wouldn't coast all the way?

Depends on what sort of technology is availiabe.

Physics indicates strongly that we should stop being juvenile and there are no magic solutions. Very much sub-c, acceleration means having reaction mass and the best you can do getting energy is total conversion of matter (there may be better ways to do that than having antimatter at hand).

Engineering all of that is out there. We barely manage to keep a nuclear submarine running with large maintenance bases conveniently not far away.

Economics... uh, oh!

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Pint

Re: Shorely we wouldn't coast all the way?

Love Greg Egan's works. Possibly the most visionary hard SF author extant right now. Permutation City being a personal favorite.

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I always make time for Ballard!

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