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The final week of my annual February birthday month fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black has begun. I continue to be overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, including numerous donations and a surge of new subscribers willing to commit to donating anywhere from $2 to $25 per month. Wow! The numbers are too many to send out individual thank you’s, so please forgive me for thanking you all with this one announcement.

 

The campaign however must go on, especially because I have added more regular features to my daily workload. In addition to my daily never-ending reporting on space exploration and science, my regular launch reports, my monthly sunspot updates, the regular cool images, and the evening pauses I post each evening, I have now added a daily weekday post I have entitled "Today's blacklisted American." Its goal is not to discuss policy or politics, but to note the endless examples occurring across the United States where some jack-booted thug or thugs think it is proper and acceptable to censor, blackball, cancel, and destroy an innocent American, merely because that American has expressed or holds an opinion or is of a race or religion that is no longer considered acceptable to the dominant leftist and bigoted culture. I want to make clear to every American that a large number of your fellow citizens no longer believe in the enlightened concept of freedom of speech or the idea of treating each person by the quality of their character.

 

Instead, they wish to shut you up, and oppress you if you happen to disagree with them or have the wrong skin color. This evil must be exposed.

 

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Engineers adjust Voyagers 1 & 2 because of steadily dropping power

In recognition that the available power on both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 continues to drop due to the age of the spacecraft, engineers have decided to make some major changes in how they operate both spacecraft.

For example, to save power on Voyager 2 they have turned off the heaters for the instrument that confirmed last year that the spacecraft had entered interstellar space. Even so, the instrument is still functioning and sending back data. It is expected it will continue to work for some time before finally succumbing to the cold of deep space.

They have also decided to reactivate the back-up thrusters on Voyager 2, just as they did with Voyager 1 in 2017.

Another challenge that engineers have faced is managing the degradation of some of the spacecraft thrusters, which fire in tiny pulses, or puffs, to subtly rotate the spacecraft. This became an issue in 2017, when mission controllers noticed that a set of thrusters on Voyager 1 needed to give off more puffs to keep the spacecraft’s antenna pointed at Earth. To make sure the spacecraft could continue to maintain proper orientation, the team fired up another set of thrusters on Voyager 1 that hadn’t been used in 37 years.

Voyager 2’s current thrusters have started to degrade, too. Mission managers have decided to make the same thruster switch on that probe this month. Voyager 2 last used these thrusters (known as trajectory correction maneuver thrusters) during its encounter with Neptune in 1989.

It is thirty years since those thusters on Voyager 2’s were used. If they work it will be an incredible testament to the engineers who designed both spacecraft.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.


He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.
 

6 comments

  • wayne

    Q:
    (excuse, I did not follow the link)
    –How many watts are being generated for each probe, right now?

  • TL

    From the article:
    “Each of the probes is powered by three radioisotope thermoelectric generators, or RTGs, which produce heat via the natural decay of plutonium-238 radioisotopes and convert that heat into electrical power. Because the heat energy of the plutonium in the RTGs declines and their internal efficiency decreases over time, each spacecraft is producing about 4 fewer watts of electrical power each year. That means the generators produce about 40% less than what they did at launch nearly 42 years ago, limiting the number of systems that can run on the spacecraft.”

  • TL

    From the JPL site:
    “Electrical power is supplied by three Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs). The current power levels are about 249 watts for each spacecraft.”
    https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/spacecraft/

    My math got me 252 watts (down from 420 watts when new) from info in the first article. Pretty amazing power budget considering the lightbulbs on the front of my house (pre-LED) used 450 watts.

  • wayne

    TL-
    Thank you!

  • Jay

    TL,
    Good job with your numbers. Sorry this is a late post, I am catching up on the posts.

    When I saw this post, I did some numbers but they came up higher, but I did not take in to account that the 312 SiGe unicouples in the MHW generators are breaking down over time.

    One good book I used on research on the RTGs and the third Voyager spacecraft that was a test article was “Space Nuclear Radioisotope Systems” by David Buden. Good reference material, diagrams, and equations.

  • wayne

    Jay–
    good stuff, thank you.

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