Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Voyager 1 breaks another space record.

              Syed Maqbool Ahmed (fourth from right) along with scientists against the backdrop of the engineering model of the Voyager spacecraft at the visitor centre of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Labaratory.        
Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM) succeeded in uploading this historic pix to the blog thanks to secy of India chapter of Moon Society, Pradeep Mohandas.Thank You Pradeep.


               On November 29,2010, my good friend, Syed Maqbool Ahmed, project manager of the Chandra Altitudunal Composition Explorer (Chace) which was one of the three payloads on board Chandrayaan-1's Moon Impact Probe (MIP), came home during his visit to Mumbai before addressing the Observer Research Foundation in the evening.
               We talked and talked mainly about space exploration and I got very excited when he told me that when he was working at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at Pasadena in California between 1994 and 1996, he saw the engineering model of what has become one of the greatest unmanned spacecrafts in the world. Any guess?  The Voyager spacecraft.

                While Voyager 2 was launched on August 20,1977, Voyager 1 took off on September 5, the same year--coincidentally this year on September 5 this blog was inaugurated as though it was a commeration of 33 years of flight of Voyager 1! Both were flown by the Titan-Centaur rocket and the launch was from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

                 BMM  has frequently been following the Voyager mission on the net, and on Tuesday Nasa announced that Voyager 1 crossed an important milestone by reaching a distant point at the edge of the solar system where there is no outward motion of the solar wind.

                  On reading this BMM recalled Syed saying that he had seen the engineering model of Voyager when he was at JPL. BMM contacted him in Hyderabad for his response and he said he had read about the new milestone Voyager 1 had crossed and it was something great.  He said:  ``I remember at the visitor centre of JPL there was an engineering model of Voyager and I was extremely excited and thrilled because I knew its cousin had embarked on a grand stellar tour making several important discoveries. I have appreciation for Voyager in astronomical units,'' he said.

                  Said Syed: ``I have appreciation for those who designed and developed the instruments on board Voyager. I compared the hardship the Voyager team faced while working on instruments which  worked for decades and are still functioning, as compared to us who worked on instruments which functioned for a few hours,'' he said.

                  According to Nasa, Voyager 1 was 17.4 billion kms from the sun. It has crossed into an area where the velocity of the hot ionised gas or plasma, emanating directly outward from the sun has slowed to zero. Nasa has described the event as a major milestone.Voyager project scientist, the legendary Ed Stone, has been quoted as saying that Voyager 1 is nearing interstellar space.

                  Voyager 1 and 2 have explored all the giant planets of the outer solar system and they carry a golden record containing greetings from the earth of various countries and in different languages. There is one from India too. Incidentally, a few days when I visited a book exhibition close to my house in Breach Candy I found a book about Voyager called ``Murmers of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record.'' Those involved with this great book include none other than Carl Sagan who was a part of the Voyager team.Currently I am reading a book called the ``Chariots of Apollo,'' which is about the development of Nasa's lunar lander, and the next book is ``Murmers of Earth.''

                  The total cost of the Voyager mission is 865 million dollars, Each Voyager spacecraft consists of nearly 65,000 individual parts.   Voyager 1's distance from earth is 17,206,000,000 kms and the total distance travelled since launch is 22. 364, 000, 000 kms. As of September 1,2008, at the speed of light, it took about 14 hours and 52 minutes for a signal from Voyager 1 to reach one of the giant antennas of the deep space network.

                  Ed Stone says: ``The Voyager mission has opened up our solar system in a way not possible before the space age. It has revealed our neighbours in the solar system and showed us now much there is to learn and how diverse the bodies are that share the solar system with our own planet earth,'' he added.

                 A true marvel of the space era.

                 BMM has a chart of the Voyager mission clock in its room.

                 It only hopes that it had worked!


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