Readers!
 

My annual February birthday month fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black is now over. It was the best February campaign ever, and the second best of all of my month-long fund-raising campaigns.

 

There were too many people who contributed to thank you all personally. If I did so I would not have time for the next day or so to actually do any further posts, and I suspect my supporters would prefer me posting on space and culture over getting individual thank you notes.

 

Let this public thank suffice. I say this often, but I must tell you all that you cannot imagine how much your support means to me. I’ve spent my life fighting a culture hostile to my perspective, a hostility that has often served to squelch my success. Your donations have now allowed me to bypass that hostility to reach a large audience.

 

Even though the February campaign is over, if you still wish to donate or subscribe you still can do so. Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

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Interstellar space, as seen by both Voyager spacecraft

Today a suite of new science papers were published outlining what scientists learned when Voyager 2 joined Voyager 1 in interstellar space last November.

The Sun’s heliosphere is like a ship sailing through interstellar space. Both the heliosphere and interstellar space are filled with plasma, a gas that has had some of its atoms stripped of their electrons. The plasma inside the heliosphere is hot and sparse, while the plasma in interstellar space is colder and denser. The space between stars also contains cosmic rays, or particles accelerated by exploding stars. Voyager 1 discovered that the heliosphere protects Earth and the other planets from more than 70% of that radiation.

The data also shows that Voyager 2, which exited the heliosphere somewhat perpendicular to its direction of travel, is still in the transitional zone between the heliosphere and interstellar space. Voyager 1 exited out the head of the heliosphere, so its transitional zone was compressed and shorter.

The real achievement of these results however is that they were obtainable at all. For both spacecraft to be functioning so well after forty years in space, and able to get their data back to Earth from distances more than 11 billion miles, is a true testament to the grand engineering that went into their design and construction.

They built well in the mid-twentieth century.

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.
 

4 comments

  • Tom

    And the two oldest continuously operating computers ever made are .. on the Voyager Spacecraft. Uptime is over 15,400 days or 370,000 hours. Not bad for a device made in the mid-seventies.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H62hZJVqs2o

  • Gealon

    Much of that fantastic reliability comes from the slow, chunky, radiation hardened processors and the plated wire memory in both machines. An interesting tidbit of information, the navigation software for both spacecraft is stored entirely in Ram memory. This might be considered an unusual design choice considering the nature of Ram memory, however the choice was made since the Ram would be fed power from the Voyager’s RTG. If the RTG ever stopped functioning the spacecraft was dead anyway, so there really wasn’t a reason not to use Ram for software storage.

  • wayne

    Tom–
    Great video!

  • Gary M.

    Tom

    Thanks for posting that video. Excellent.

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