Jan 3, 2011

The Voyager 1

Today, I'd like to write a bit about the Voyager 1 spacecraft. This craft's mission was to explore the outer planets, like Jupiter and Neptune. It was planned to do a flyby of Jupiter and Saturn and its moons. It launched on September 5th, 1977.
The Voyager 1 included:
 16 thrusters
 three-axis stabilization to maintain stability
 11 scientific instruments to study objects as it flys by
 a 12 feet(3.7 meters) parabolic antenna to communicate with Earth
 a radioisotope thermoelectric generator(RTG) which is a nuclear electrical generater for the battery; you can't use solar power in space so deep.
 the "Golden Record" which holds stuff about Earth in case it's found by intelligent life-forms.

When the spacecraft is unable to communicate with Earth, a digital tape recorder recods up to -this might be a surprise compared with today's standards- 62,500 kilobytes of data. Not gigabytes, not megabytes, kilobytes. I guess this is pretty good for something built about 30 years ago, though.
The nuclear generator, which sounds pretty unsafe, was-and maybe is- used in remote facilities on the planet, too. For example, series of lighthouses built by the former Soviet Union inside the Arctic Circle used this to power them. This was also used on the lunar lander for the Apollo missions to the moon, and when Apollo 13 failed to land on the moon, they ditched the lander into the atmosphere. The generator was designed to not burn up in re-entry into the atmosphere, and it looks like it survived the ditch into the ocean and not emitting any harmful stuff.
I'll soon write about the golden disk, what's in it, and if aliens exist.

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