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132 votes
Accepted

How is stacking oranges in 24 dimensions related to receiving and decoding signals from the Voyagers?

All the different data words a transmitter can send and a receiver can detect can be imagined as dots arranged in a large space. Selecting a data encoding for error detection and correction is about ...
asdfex's user avatar
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92 votes
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Why do exploration spacecraft like Voyager 1 and 2 go through the asteroid belt, and not over or below it?

First, space is absolutely gigantic; the chance of either of the Voyagers, or ay other outer-planet mission, hitting an asteroid was infinitesimal. Second, the asteroid belt itself isn't really ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
75 votes
Accepted

Why were the Voyager spacecraft numbered "out-of-order"?

Voyager 1 was the first to reach Jupiter and the first to reach Saturn, as it was launched on a "shorter and faster trajectory" (Wikipedia, NASA). So the numbering was chosen to reflect the order of ...
Mark Foskey's user avatar
64 votes
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Why did Voyager 1 lose speed after the sudden gain in speed from gravity assist?

It's the gravitational attraction of the Sun. Voyager was moving away from the Sun and was pulled back by its gravity. Since Voyager was not moving directly away from the Sun, it's trajectory also ...
Steve Linton's user avatar
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61 votes
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Can Voyager 1 or 2, theoretically, return to earth if given instructions before their electronic instruments shut down in 2025?

No, not even slightly. Neither Voyager has much fuel left; in fact, they don't have much fuel even for changing their attitude (the way they point), which is orders of magnitude less fuel than for ...
Nathan Tuggy's user avatar
  • 4,567
60 votes

Why do exploration spacecraft like Voyager 1 and 2 go through the asteroid belt, and not over or below it?

A Keplerian trajectory in the Solar system essentially needs to be in a plane defined by three points: the location of the Sun, the location you're starting from, and the point your target will be at ...
John Doty's user avatar
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50 votes
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How does a space probe maintain its trajectory while passing through the extreme gravitational field of the gas giants of our solar system?

The trajectory was not only "unhindered" - it was enhanced! Knowing mass of the planet you can calculate very precisely how the trajectory of a probe flying by will be affected. You modify the ...
SF.'s user avatar
  • 55k
47 votes

Why didn't Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 crash on into Jupiter or Uranus when they approached near to these massive planets?

why weren't they completely attracted by their gravitational field? How much a trajectory is changed, depends on 3 factors: the mass of the planet, the speed of the spacecraft, the distance between ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
44 votes
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Is there someone continually monitoring the Voyager spacecraft?

Continuously? No, for several reasons. Most significantly, it just isn't possible. Both Voyagers are now so far away that only the 70-meter antennas of the Deep Space Network can communicate with ...
Mark's user avatar
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37 votes

Why was radio contact with Pioneer lost earlier than with Voyager?

Interplanetary communication is mainly dependent on signal strength (for transmission) and antenna size (for reception). The Pioneers use a 9-foot antenna and an 8-watt transmitter. The Voyagers use ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
37 votes

Could one of the interstellar probes discover Planet IX by accident?

Any hypothetical planet (or other object) even further out would be very dark, so few photos are taken for any reason other than to look inward. (And in any case, the cameras on the Voyagers are shut ...
GremlinWranger's user avatar
35 votes

Why did Voyager 1 lose speed after the sudden gain in speed from gravity assist?

Additionally, the probe has just passed a large planetary body with its own gravity well. The probe has to climb up out of that planet's gravity well which costs momentum. There is a net gain in ...
Criggie's user avatar
  • 680
34 votes

Does the Voyager team use a wrapper (Fortran(77?) to Python) to transmit current commands?

In 2015, the last original Voyager engineer still on the project, retired. NASA specified that his replacement would have to know FORTRAN. The software was updated regularly after launch: The ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
33 votes

What changes to Voyager could have been made?

Knowing what we know now about Titan's thick and resistant-to-surface-photography atmosphere, choosing a Pluto flyby for Voyager 1 over a Titan flyby would perhaps have given more exciting results. ...
SE - stop firing the good guys's user avatar
31 votes

Where will the Pioneer, Voyager and New Horizons spacecraft be after one galactic orbit?

Oversimplifying by taking the current velocity of each probe and multiplying it by 250 million years, I get: Voyager 1 - 10,000 light years away Voyager 2 - 9,600 light years away New Horizons - 9,...
Eugene Styer's user avatar
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30 votes
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Does the tape recorder on Voyager-1 still work?

Edit: The Spacecraft operations schedule contains the answer. On December 18, 2021, we see an item 'PLAYBACK' show up in the schedule for Voyager 1. S/C 31 is Voyager 1. The 'PLAYBACK' label is the ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
29 votes
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Why was the imaging quality of the Voyager probes *much* better than the Pioneer probes despite being launched only 5 years later?

The 1960s and 1970s were a period of rapid technological development, so it's not actually surprising that the relatively new field of electronic imaging advanced so far in that five-year period. ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
28 votes

Why was radio contact with Pioneer lost earlier than with Voyager?

In addition to a better transmitter, the Voyagers have better power reserves: their RTGs supplied 470 W at launch, while the Pioneer RTGs supplied 160 W at launch. So the Voyager RTGs will take much ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
28 votes
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How is Voyager 1 still operating?

The Voyagers have been so reliable due to careful design, plus lots of redundancy. Voyager employs three dual-redundant computer systems per spacecraft. The first, the CCS, is nearly identical to ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
28 votes

Why was the imaging quality of the Voyager probes *much* better than the Pioneer probes despite being launched only 5 years later?

It is not only the progress in imaging over that period. Voyager was a more ambitious and expensive mission in general. The mass of Pioneer 11 was 259 kg, while that of Voyager was 825.5. That extra ...
Mark Foskey's user avatar
27 votes
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If a Voyager crashes into something, would we know?

Most likely no. Voyager downlink communication (via its radio link to NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) is not continuous. You can check the contact schedule at this Voyager site. If everything looks ...
Tom Spilker's user avatar
  • 18.3k
25 votes
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How do Voyager 1's Trajectory Control Thrusters differ from its Attitude Control Thrusters?

The attitude thrusters and TCMs are mechanically identical, all Aerojet MR-103s. From the Voyager Press Kit: The 16 thrusters on the mission module each deliver 0.89 N (0.2-lb.) thrust. Four are used ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
25 votes

How does a space probe maintain its trajectory while passing through the extreme gravitational field of the gas giants of our solar system?

They did not ! This is the trajectory of Voyager 1 at Jupiter. credits wikipedia
Antzi's user avatar
  • 12.6k
25 votes
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Why didn't the Pioneer probes maintain communications with Earth as long as the Voyagers have?

Why the Pioneers didn't last as long: The Pioneers were a low-budget mission just to test if flying to the outer planets was feasible They used a smaller radio transmitter (8 W vs. 23 W) and antenna ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
25 votes
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Why is Voyager/Pioneer so slow compared to Parker Solar Probe?

Physical First and foremost, the physical reason is that objects accelerate as they approach massive bodies and decelerate as they recede: Parker Solar Probe achieves its peak orbital speed (almost ...
Jack's user avatar
  • 9,956
24 votes

Why not send Voyager 3 and 4 following up the paths taken by Voyager 1 and 2 to re-transmit signals of later as they fly away from Earth?

It's a great question! Trajectory To get a few decades more out of them, you can launch Voyagers 3 and 4 sometime around now and get by with a maximally-boosting flyby of Jupiter since you wouldn't ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
24 votes

Could one of the interstellar probes discover Planet IX by accident?

There are five probes leaving the Solar System. Pioneer 10 and 11 are no longer functioning. Voyager 1 and 2 are functioning but their cameras have not been used since the early 1990s, and it is ...
Andrew is gone's user avatar
23 votes
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What happened to Voyager 2's tracking loop capacitor? How did it get damaged? What is it for? What's a tracking loop anyway?

On April 6, 1978, a fault-protection algorithm onboard Voyager 2 automatically switched from the prime to backup receiver. However, the backup receiver's tracking-loop capacitor3 was found to have ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
22 votes
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Would a Voyager spacecraft trajectory change be recognized?

Would the engineer team here on Earth detect it? How? There are two issues here. Suppose Voyager 2 (Voyager 1 is moving faster and is further away, so the effect will be lesser on Voyager 1 than on ...
David Hammen's user avatar
  • 74.9k
21 votes

Why didn't Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 crash on into Jupiter or Uranus when they approached near to these massive planets?

To add to the answers @Hobbes & @Steve Linton posted, the mission designers indeed knew Jupiter's gravity field quite well from the orbits of Jupiter's moons. But before the Voyagers arrived they ...
Tom Spilker's user avatar
  • 18.3k

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