View Full Version : Discussion: NASA May Silence Voyagers on April 15

2005-Apr-12, 04:54 PM
SUMMARY: Today NASA has 55 active mission control teams monitoring ongoing spacecraft and station missions - 13 associated with missions extended beyond original planning. Soon there may be seven less. By October of this year, we could be turning a deaf ear to data collected by one of the most successful NASA programs of all times. For even as Voyager 1 and 2 are poised to enter the interstellar realm, budget-minders in our nation's capital may have already sealed the fate on a pair of craft that could provide important information about our solar system - and beyond - for the next 15 years.

View full article (http://www.universetoday.com/am/publish/nasa_silence_voyagers.html)

What do you think about this story? Post your comments below.

2005-Apr-12, 07:05 PM
An important piece of news, so thanks for giving it. I will be writing my congressman. ;)

Anything else I might be tempted to say may run afowl of talk on politics, for which I was really very gently chastized recently in another discussion line is supposedly forbidden us. :unsure:

On second thought, the boss brought it up and I agree it stinks. :D

2005-Apr-13, 05:43 AM
I'm not a US citizen but I feel that we in the UT forum should make a stand on this issue in the name of science and humanity. Please do not abandon voyager I and II. I don't know the implications of this suggestion but if NASA can't hold onto the Voyagers for financial reasons, perhaps ESA and other international space agencies might be interested to maintain contact with the two crafts.

Martin Musgrave
2005-Apr-13, 06:26 AM
This is deplorable! This is also the first I have heard of this story.

Could you please let "us" know the source(s) of this information.

I am searching the web now for NASA funding review info but time is VERY short so if you could speed up the process for me, that would be fantastic!

I am intending on contacting the Minister for Science, my local federal and state members, the Prime Minister's office, and the local media. Hopefully somebody will take notice, identify this as an easy, relatively inexpense, publicity-friendly issue, and will choose to run with it. (when I say local, I mean in Australia because that's where I am.)

I do not know if the facilities in Australia are sufficiently powerful to be of use for this application but it certainly does not hurt to pressure the appropriate people. If the Australian systems can be of use, they should be put to good use!

Guest_Kirok of L'Stok
2005-Apr-13, 12:28 PM
I wonder if this type of situation might be one where "minding the store" could be handed over to an amateur or educational organisation? What would be the hardware required? What is the current infrastructure of the "watching brief"? How many people, what qualifications, how would it be analysed, who would be interested in the output?

When you consider the popularity of amateur programs such as SETI at home and the search for comets and NEO's - could it be split up into a program that utilises many hands to make light work?

Or could some smaller university take this on as a graduate programme? Surely it would be an excellent candidate for private, state and federal grants?

Perhaps it could be a combination of the amateur and professional? I'm guessing that the hardware to "hear" Voyager would be a large dish like The Parkes Observatory (http://www.parkes.atnf.csiro.au/). Perhaps the data could then be handed on to an university or amateur organisation?

Mate, I'd love to see my tax dollars go to that!


Alan, Downunda
Sci Station Aus (http://awayteam_boyd.blogspot.com/)

2005-Apr-13, 01:38 PM
I'm guessing that the hardware to "hear" Voyager would be a large dish like The Parkes Observatory

Too right. The signals are in the picoweber range now, due to distance and dwindling power. It was never anticipated that they would last this long. The zero-defect technology of that time was rated at 8 to 9 years, max. There was doubt as to whether they would even reach their targets still functioning. Power accumulation from solar cells is subject to the same inverse-square decrease as broadcast transmissions. While the comm gear is directed transmission, not broadcast, it still suffers from dispersion with distance. I have a mostly sentimental stake in this, as I built some of the on-board sensors. Still, it would be nice to continue to hear from the V'gers as they enter the area beyond the heliopause-- faithful servants to the end.

I don't think it's reasonable at this point to ask NASA to continue to fund and administer from their budget. The best solution would probably be a cooperative venture among leading universities-- a lesson in humility for graduate students trying to communicate with 70's-vintage gear-- compare the best of the onboard computers to a pocket calculator of today! Remember that the data packets are burst-transmitted when the system memory fills up-- and the system memory is very small-- too small to even hold a modern data-compression algorithm. Compare with the movie [i]Space Cowboys

NASA would probably accept a scaledown and handover of reponsibility, if the PR was spun correctly.

My hope is that when we have better propulsion systems, and the Earth-Pluto run is a ten-day jaunt, we can recover them. Best regards-- Steve

2005-Apr-13, 03:46 PM
I'm not a US citizen but I feel that we in the UT forum should make a stand on this issue in the name of science and humanity. Please do not abandon voyager I and II. I don't know the implications of this suggestion but if NASA can't hold onto the Voyagers for financial reasons, perhaps ESA and other international space agencies might be interested to maintain contact with the two crafts.

Only too right, my sentiments exactly. Just when the craft are on the brink of finding out about the heliosphere, ouch!

2005-Apr-13, 10:51 PM
I just sent emails to my senators - I hope I'm not too late. :(

2005-Apr-14, 12:41 AM
Hello, wstevenbrown! Seems you are in the position to educate us with regards to the two v'gers. In case NASA shuts them down, could they be raised again? What would it take then? Would we be looking for a needle in a haystack?

The Starman
2005-Apr-14, 12:46 AM
We are mashalling the troops - they will not be lost (but I'm just not sure if we've got the right hardware to do anything useful - damn that Government / Private sector non-funding of real reseach in Oz!)

2005-Apr-14, 04:47 AM

I didnít mean to create that impression. I was a young technologist, an artificer, really, working for a Mad Scientistó who did contract work for NIS and NASA. For you, itís historyó for me, itís current events. My memories are both episodic and fragmentary. My real work was prototype printed circuits, and I donít know which or how many ended up in orbit, or in weapons systems, or in traffic control, or in the Ďsupercomputersí of the time. Proprietary products all, surrounded by both corporate and national security. The Mad Scientist enlisted my aid in fabricating the most precise magnetometers ever produced, several hundred of them, and shared the end user information only in those cases where the design parameters require the ability to survive extreme vacuum. I only tracked the Vígers and Pioneers out of personal interest, and to maintain the feeling of being somehow involved in Black Sky projects. Still, it gives me a warm fuzzy to know that the work of my hands has left the solar systemÖ

Your very ordinary friend--Steve B)

The Starman
2005-Apr-14, 01:09 PM
I'm relatively new to the UT crowd but I was hit in the face by the Voyager news.

I suspect that NASA reviews the funding for these projects every year. If it were otherwise I'm fairly certain a larger portion of the world science community would have been more vocal if there was a real threat of NASA cutting funding. Not being a USAian, nor in a government organisation, I can not speak with any authority on the matter.

However, assuming that this is for real, shutting these probes down now could only be the stupidest decision anyone could make - even for the Hon. President Bush.

So in an effort to get the Australian government, the Australian community and any Australian scientific institution that might be able to do something about the idea of Voyage 1 & 2 being shutdown, I've emailled the following:

1) the Prime Minister, The Hon. Mr. John Horward PM.
2) the Minister for Science, The Hon Dr. Brendan Nelson MP.
3) my federal member, Mr. Arch Bevis MP (I'm not sure if he is supposed to be an Honourable too - if he is, Sorry mate)
4) All four national news networks (i.e. channel 10, 7, 9, and the ABC). In fact, I just finished a conversation with an ABC reporter on the subject.

I have heard back from channel 10 (1 automatically generated reply) and a request for more information from the news editor from channel 7.

If anyone can get me more details on the progress of NASA and their review regarding the Voyager project funding and how others could help, please respond ASAP!!! The clock is ticking!

Have no doubt - these are historically significant probes. How long ago was it that the public thought the world was flat and what did it take that to change? These probes are, at least, in that ballpark.

2005-Apr-14, 09:29 PM
Great job, Starman! I hope all our efforts would bear fruit.

I don't mean to cast doubt on the report. We're moving heaven and earth for this. I've just spent more than an hour in the web searching for confirmation on this report but none so far. The web page for voyagers in the www.jpl.nasa.gov is outdated. None in www.nasa.gov. Not much info on Jeff Barbour also. Is this an "inside info" or is there a site for the news?

2005-Apr-14, 10:43 PM
Here are more stories:
http://www.kentucky.com/mld/heraldleader/l...ce/11389338.htm (http://www.kentucky.com/mld/heraldleader/living/science/11389338.htm)


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/artic...pr9.html?nav=pq (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A39175-2005Apr9.html?nav=pq)

There are plenty more out there.

2005-Apr-15, 02:47 AM
Thanks, Fraser! Those are very good links and describe the whole picture. So, it's budget cut not only for astronomy. Makes it even harder to justify as other important sciences will suffer. The best thing I guess is to find organizations which maybe willing to take the responsibility of "maintaining" the voyagers as had been suggested earlier in this thread

The Near-Sighted Astronomer
2005-Apr-15, 05:11 AM
Hi All,

I read about the funding cut for Voyager in a local newspaper last week. (Probably the San Jose Mercury News but possibly the SF Chronicle). It seemed outrageous to me that anyone would consider shutting down the JPL Mission Control team for these two craft - what's 4.2 million per year after you spent almost 900 million already and the craft are still online collecting priceless data.

It was my wife who prompted me to write the article. I sat around for a day or two and the thing just wouldn't leave me alone so I did the research and wrote it up. Frankly I was surprised by hom much "feeling" came out when writing it and I am very pleased that Fraser published it on UT...

Of course, as Fraser points out there is plenty of confirmation.

My thanks for all the fine posts and hard work!


Willi O@ sbcglobal
2005-Apr-16, 12:45 AM
[FONT=Arial] :o I am amazed how our government can waste so much money on WAR, yet something so out reaching as the Voyagers, will be left to alone to die alone. They better be watched as they/it (Vger) may come back to haunt us.

2005-Apr-16, 05:42 AM
Just to put this into perspective ...
- The Voyager satellites themselves will not be "switched off", they'll still be transmitting as long as their power supply holds up, reported to be until 2020, right?
- I've read that the largest component of the Voyager budget is the time on the NASA Deep Space Network (Tidbinbilla to the Aussies in the audience)
- Steve tells us that "The signals are in the picoweber range now, due to distance and dwindling power."
- I've read that the Voyager Project's time on the Deep Space Network is the major expence that they want save

So ... What options are there for picking up the signal from Voyager? I'm trying to see if Parkes or the Australia Telescope Compact Array (http://www.outreach.atnf.csiro.au/visiting/narrabri/) has the capacity to act as a base station (whether they would be allowed to is a political decision).

Can anyone suggest any other facilities that might be suitable in other countries? The Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (http://www.drao-ofr.hia-iha.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/) in Canada? England? Europe? Japan? Russia? China?

Oh yeh!! Wouldn't that create a stir in congress if the Chinese started utilising the data from an American Deep Space project! (^V^)


Alan, Downunda (http://scistationr14.blogspot.com/)

Karen M.
2005-Apr-19, 01:36 AM
Okay, I can't take credit for this, but it seemed appropriate. Thank you to Phil Plait, "The Bad Astronomer" for linking this.


I remember going to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (what seems a lifetime ago now) to see LIVE pictures of Saturn from one of the Voyagers.

I don't agree with NASA giving up on the Voyagers. They are so close to leaving our Solar System - a tremendous milestone.

Why is NASA giving up on some it's most successful ventures?

2005-Apr-19, 01:50 AM
NASA shouldn't abandon these machines. Are the Voyagers almost outta our Solar System? How much longer do they have to leave our system?

The Starman
2005-Apr-26, 12:43 AM
Dear UT-ers,

Do we have any updates on the status of funding for the Voyager probes?

I have asked for additional information from NASA but, not being an American, I can guess where my request ended up.

The information regarding the operating costs for these probes quoted above is very interesting. Thanks Alan. I'll try to get some conformation of this.

As I've said before, I have contacted a number of news agencies in Australia. One has come back to me asking to put together a piece.

I also contacted a number of political figures but I suspect that the recent ANZAC day commemorations will act as a very effective smoke screen for any "smaller" details. I'll touch base with these people again.

If anyone has any new information regarding this case of self-inflicted NASA sabotage, could you please let me know.


Karen M.
2005-Apr-26, 01:35 AM
Jeff, you Near-Sighted Astronomer, Thank you for writing such a wonderful article. It WAS emotional. It made me think.

As StarMan points out, NASA is sabotaging its most successful ventures, first Hubble and now the Voyagers.

What's the latest word? What was decided about Voyager's fates?


Karen M.
2005-Apr-26, 02:02 AM
I did a little research and here is what I've come up with:

http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/te...t_missions.html (http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/technology/050420_last_missions.html)

Basically, a full review is in the works, and no decision has been made yet. Missions will be weighed on their scientific importance. Blah, blah, blah...

The article points out that the Voyager Missions employ the equivalent of only 10 people at JPL. Roughly 400 hours a week. Maybe that is what is in need of review - make the missions a little more cost effective by reassigning some of the work force.


The Starman
2005-Apr-26, 05:19 AM
Thanks Karen for the link. I must suck at searches 'coz none of this comes up when I do it!?

I have contacted Raytheon Australia. This is the company that manages the Canberra Deep Space Communications Centre. As others have indicated, this appears to be one of the locations, if not the the only location, for NASA to communicate with the Voyager probes. I have asked them for any information regarding their continued involvement with the Voyager programs. Raytheon appears to be a military support company. I suspect that Voyager is not a major concern for them. I am not expecting much of a reply.

Lets see if the Federal government can help Raytheon make it easier for NASA to continue this program - either through funding support or perhaps some sort of contract negotiation. I have no idea how these things work but its worth pressing some buttons. I have contacted various people in Oz asking for feedback on such an idea. Hopefully someone salutes.

I am continuing discussions with the local news agencies - one continues to be interested. TV - HERE I COME! (Ah, maybe not)

The Near-Sighted Astronomer
2005-Apr-28, 10:42 PM
Hi All,

Just logged in to find out if any word had come down about axing continued Voyager monitoring. I also surfed the web for definitive info regarding the April 15 decision date - nada. So as of April 28, there doesn't appear to be any definitive word on this. Looks like fiscal 2006 will give us the answer (October 2005). Until then Fly on Voyager, Fly on".


The Starman
2005-Apr-29, 02:33 AM
Gday UT-ites,

I've been checking out whatever I can on the Voyager axing as well. Nothing too date from what I can tell either. I've been asking anyone and everyone in around the science / space / NASA community as well. No responses (surprise, surprise). I've asked the management company of the Canberra Deep Space facility for info too - guess what: Nothing.

Interestingly (and perhaps off the topic), the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (that's Oz ABC) is running a story on Monday night, 8:30pm, about how secretive the Australian "Space" industry is and how it is all military-based. We shall see what they have to say.

Haven't heard back from anyone on the political side of my communications either but I have had a pre-interview discussion with one Australian TV station. Their position is that if the Voyagers get cut, they want it on the news that night so if anyone hears anything - POST IT A.S.A.P.!!! We will get coverage.

Keep Watching The Skis (no, hang on - that's not right?)

The Starman
2005-May-04, 12:31 AM
Gday UTians,

The beat goes on - I've got some replies regarding the Voyager missions. As we have probably all read, all funding decisions are on hold and being re-assessed. YAY!

In reply to my initial contact with NASA requesting specific budget details about the missions, I have been directed to the FOIA website. Now I am going through the official channels. Lets see how long that takes and if it leads anywhere at all.

The people at the Canberra Deep Space Communications Centre have told me that they check in with both Voyager probes on an almost daily basis. This is confirmation of the schedule posted on their website. They have had no directive telling them to stop now or at any time in the future.

I have had no response from any Australian political organisation or individual. Raytheon Australia, the CDSCC management company, has not responded either. After seeing the 4 Corners programme on the ABC last Monday, I am not surprised.

Please keep us all updated if you hear anything but at the moment it seems to have gone cold - hopefully this is not the calm before the storm.