NEW CASTLE —
How outdated is NASA’s Voyager I spacecraft?
Well, for one thing, it uses eight-track tape recording technology. And its computer is far more primitive than even the most basic household devices.
But 35 years later, Voyager is still going strong, defying the odds and dangers of deep space. And in the near future, this tiny probe will officially leave the solar system, continuing its journey into the unknown.
Despite their now-primitive technology, both Voyager 1 and 2 still send signals back to Earth. If these probes were launched today, they undoubtedly would have a greater capacity for transmitting information back home. But in 1977, it was the best NASA could do.
Officially, the Voyager probes’ main mission was to conduct fly-bys of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, giving Earth greater insight into these distant gas giants. Much was revealed by the Voyager probes, which were directed into deep space once they completed their primary tasks.
On the probes is information about Earth and humanity. NASA scientists had the foresight to consider that Voyager 1 and 2 would survive their missions and perhaps one day encounter other intelligent life forms in the cosmos.
That’s a tall order, considering the vastness of space. When you realize it has taken Voyager 35 years just to reach the edge of our solar system, finding its way to other beings — assuming they exist — is obviously an unlikely occurrence.
But who knows? The Voyagers have provided their share of surprises already. More may be in store.
However, it’s not likely the Voyager probes will send back information about any encounter with an alien civilization. Their nuclear fuel is expected to last only until around 2020.
Perhaps the most enduring lesson from Voyager is its reminder of how vast space is and how challenging it will be for humanity to reach meaningfully beyond Earth’s close environs. Despite all the talk about lunar bases and manned missions to Mars, these costly ventures are merely concepts, not specific, budgeted plans.
And going to these nearby bodies is nothing compared to traveling the distances achieved by the Voyager probes.
There is a romance to human space travel. But this clashes with the financial and technological realities of such missions. While traveling to the moon can be accomplished within days, a space journey to Mars and back would require months.
This is why NASA is focusing more on unmanned probes to do the heavy lifting, such as the current Mars rover Curiosity. Machines may not be the perfect replacement for human minds, eyes and adaptability. But they increasingly can perform crucial and delicate missions, such as seeking signs of past or present life on Mars.
We have no doubt that humans will return to the moon and beyond some day. But in the meantime, the Voyager and Curiosity missions demonstrate that much can be accomplished without them.
NEW CASTLE —
How outdated is NASA’s Voyager I spacecraft?
Our Opinion: State audit says city school district failed to collect from non-residents
Audit information about non-resident students who didn’t pay tuition at New Castle raises more questions than it answers. At least so far. We expect more details when the Pennsylvania auditor general’s office completes its report and the New Castle school district provides its response.
Our Opinion: Make the most of your power to vote by casting ballot tomorrow
So what kind of turnout will there be for tomorrow’s primary? Recent history suggests somewhere between low and lousy. This year’s elections are devoted to local races, and there are few major ones being contested in the primary.
Our Opinion: Privatization of county jail is worthy of examination
Generally speaking, we support government efforts to seek more efficient ways to provide essential services. So we have no problem with the decision by the Lawrence County commissioners to solicit proposals for the private operation of the county jail.
Our Opinion: We endorse candidates for New Castle board
The New Castle school district is often a study in contrasts. There are complaints about the district on everything from taxes to nepotism, from test scores to ethical slights. Yet at the same time, plenty of students within the district excel. It’s a tribute to the hard work of those students, their families and the educators who support them.
Our Opinion: You should be frightened, outraged by IRS abuse of power
When people talk about government posing a threat to citizens, a common topic these days is unmanned drones. But a more credible threat may be the Internal Revenue Service. This agency, responsible for collecting taxes and enforcing related rules, has the ability to make life miserable for the average individual.
Our Opinion: Our endorsements for City Council race
The city of New Castle needs help. Financially distressed and operating under Pennsylvania’s Act 47, New Castle must find ways to reverse its population loss and fiscal challenges.
Our Opinion: Court frowns on gerrymandering, but only slightly
Pennsylvania legislators have received the green light to put their own political interests ahead of yours. That’s a key point in the latest Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on legislative apportionment in the commonwealth.
Our Opinion: Study says distracted driving deaths are under reported
Suppose you operated a piece of heavy machinery at your job. And suppose it’s machinery that moves quickly with little effort. What would happen if you decided to take one hand off that equipment — while it was still in motion — and instead focused your attention on a telephone call?
Our Opinion: Senate seeks to give states more taxing power
Congress is taking a stab at tax fairness. At least, where states are concerned. If you’re looking for meaningful reform of the federal tax code, that’s going to have to wait.
Our Opinion: Look at handling of bombing suspects is warranted
We welcome an investigation into the handling of intelligence related to suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. That probe may reveal little of value.
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