SAM MORRELL


ASTROPHYSICIST

Happy Birthday @Voyager2!

August 17, 2010   |   Reading time: ~3 mins

If there’s one thing in modern society which I think is very much overlooked it’s the big black thing above us… no, not the clouds of doubt over the houses of parliament! I means space. Back in the heyday of space exploration everybody was excited about being the first into space, the first to the moon, the first to mars. It kinda kept our minds off blowing each other up with ever more creative ways for a little while, which let’s face it can’t be a bad thing.

Anyway, I digress. The important thing that in just a couple days (20th of August) marks the 33rd Anniversary of the launching of the first Voyager probe (Voyager 2), and I’d like to take a moment to wish it a happy birthday. Before you look at me weirdly for wishing an inanimate object a happy birthday, let me explain why. I’ve recently been doing research into the Voyager program, for no reason other than my own amusement, and these pieces of equipment are absolutely spectacular. You’d never have thought they would have come from the same species that considered Windows Vista ‘stable’. The voyager probes have been floating through space for nearly 33 years and they are still in full working order, still sending back data that’s ever more furthering our research of the universe around us.

Why do I feel I need to celebrate these craft. If you read the wikipedia entry for each probe I reckon you’d agree that it’d make a damn fine novel / film. For those unaware, there has been many hickups along the way for these probes, for example shortly after launch the flight computer of Voyager 2 became confused and started a series of events that led to the probe shutting down for over an hour, making mission control loose all contact and control of it, only to spring back into life and continue with it’s mission as if nothing had happened. How about when Voyager 1’s main transceiver assembly stopped working properly so it kept switching back and forth between the main and backups and blew the fuses for the main transceiver, it’s been working on backup ever since. These are the kinda stories that good films rely on, and trust me when it comes to the Voyager probes there’s been plenty of them, yet they always come out the other side, still sending back scientific data to us back on earth, the heroes of the hour so to speak.

I suppose I just felt a little sad for them floating out in space, hundreds of AU from their creators, just out there in the abyss doing their job, still sending back data decades after their initial launch. I still feel silly imparting them with human characteristics but if you read their story it reads something along the lines of ‘the little probe that could’.

So, to the voyager probes, I say happy 33rd birthday!

If you fancy why not do it yourself by tweeting @Voyager2.

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