IMS 5048: Information Continuum -- Assessment
First assignment: worth 10%.
Due: 10 August 2005.
‘Dogged star-trekker reaches the final frontier', The Age , p 5.
November 7, 2003
NASA's Voyager 1, built to last only five years to probe Earth's planetary neighbours, has reached the solar system's final frontier and may have surfed into interstellar space, more than 26 years after its launch.
Whether or not it has escaped the Sun's sphere of influence - known to astronomers as the heliosphere -- Voyager 1 has exceeded all expectations, and on Wednesday was more than 13.5 billion kilometres from Earth, or 90 times the distance between Earth and the Sun.
The Earth-Sun distance, 149.7 million kilometres, is a convenient measure for astronomers, and is known as one astronomical unit, or AU. Voyager 1 is the only human-made object to have travelled 90 AU.
Scientists are loath to predict when it will give up the ghost, because it is still sending data.
"We do have enough electrical power, if nothing breaks on the spacecraft, we can continue till 2020," Edward Stone, a Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology, said at a NASA briefing.
Dr Stone said Voyager 1, carrying a gold record bearing greetings, images and diverse information from Earth, had not yet crossed what he called the final frontier out of the solar system, but this could happen before 2020.
But Stamatios Krimigis, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said that Voyager had already crossed the final frontier.
"We have discovered that Voyager 1 has actually crossed into the area of interstellar space, around August 1, 2002," Dr Krimigis said.
At the frontier, the flow of charged particles from the Sun - the solar wind - stopped, and the craft met material associated with interstellar space.
Dr Krimigis said this meant Voyager 1 had successfully navigated termination shock, the area where the Sun's influence ends and the stars' begins.'If nothing breaks on the spacecraft, we can continue till 2020.'
A senior research scientist at the University of Maryland, Frank McDonald, said that because this area was close to being a perfect vacuum, the termination shock did not affect Voyager 1. "The spacecraft has no idea that it passed, or didn't pass, through the shock," he said. "The spacecraft is not perturbed at all, so it's not a danger in any way."
Voyager 1 and its twin, Voyager 2, were built to explore Jupiter and Saturn and their surrounding phenomena, and were launched in 1977.
But they kept going, eventually exploring all the giant outer planets of the solar system, 48 of their moons and their systems of rings and magnetic fields.
Voyager 1 left the planets behind in 1990, taking a backward-looking snapshot before heading toward the space between the stars.
Voyager 1's path is bent up from the plane where most of the planets lie. Voyager 2 is headed down.
"This little engine that could was not designed for this kind of lifetime," said Louis Lanzerotti, a Bell Labs expert on solar wind, who has been involved with the Voyager program since 1972. "It's absolutely remarkable," he said.
2.The purposes of the gold disk on the Voyager satellite:
At this site http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/spacecraft/goldenrec.html you can find some information about why the U.S. attempt to encapsulate human civilization, culture and knowledge was undertaken. It carries one document for space and posterity. Follow the details on the site to find out the reasons why. Carl Sagan inspired the original idea of a Message (http://very.re-lab.net/voyagers.html).
3. Your tasks:
From your preliminary understanding of the Information Continuum Model, state whether in your view:
1.the CD-Rom on board Voyager ( Message to the universe ) adequately summarises the essence of recorded civilization as you know it; and
2.describe any additional information that you would choose to place on board the satellite yourself, and justify your choice; and
3.comment on how effective the CD-Rom is in its intended aims; and
4.describe how the Voyager experiment matches some of the functions of the ICM.
4.Length: one A4 page.
Graeme Johanson 20 July 2005.
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