Voyager I and II

I was just reading about the equipment, including the computers onboard the two Voyager probes. Launched in 1977, the two identical probes still send back useful data at a whopping 160bps - that’s a lot slower than dial-up.

They have been travelling for 40 years at over 30,000 miles per hour and are now both more than 10 billion miles from Earth.

It takes over 16 hours to receive a signal from them, using a 22 Watt transmitter - that’s as powerfull as a fridge lightbulb! The signal, when received back on Earth, is 0.1 billion-billionth of a Watt and requires a 70-meter dish.

The computers on board, there are 3 and together they have about 69kb of RAM. If you had an 80’s computer (BBC Micro, Spectrum, Commodore 64 etc) it’s not much more than they had. The phone you use everday is most likely 10,000 times faster.

They will continue to have enough power to perform scientific instrument operations until hopefully 2025. But both probes will remain within radio range until about 2036.

I find the thought of managing to get people and objects into space, and sometimes back, absolutely fascinating. People living on the ISS for long periods of time is amazing. But the biggest area of interest in space, for me, is the creation of such long lasting pieces of technology. Designed to work so far away from ‘home’.

I suppose I could humorously comment about Windows 95 and having to restart constantly after crashes. But it’s so incredible how the computers on board are still performing outstandingly with very few problems after so long.

Written by Paul in blog on Tue 05 June 2018. Tags: blog,


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