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The Voyager Mission: 40th Anniversary – NASA Science Lecture

The Voyager Mission: 40th Anniversary – NASA Science Lecture


five in 1977 the greatest adventure in
space exploration commenced our eyes our minds our our souls are
moving out through the universe you can only do things for the first time once
and voyager kept doing things for the first time over and over again two
robots were built to be able to think and explore by themselves in the deep
reaches of our solar system none of the managers really appreciated
the complexity and the autonomy that we just launched into space yet both
missions went seriously wrong only moments after taking flight we thought
that we’d lost a spacecraft they went on to make astounding and unexpected
discoveries and you see things that you did not predict that’s when there is the
most to learn forty years ago the greatest adventure
in space exploration began with the launch of the fortress and we’re here
today to remember to celebrate and to find out what these magnificent machines
are still doing I want to introduce our panelists but if you will please hold
your applause to the end first is Suzy Dodd Suzy’s first job out of college was
to work on border she went on to become the project manager of order and had
that top job when Voyager 1 became the first spacecraft ever to reach
interstellar space Chris Jones is JPL’s chief engineer he helped to bring the
voyagers into being in these days he’s still providing advice and guidance on
how to keep them working Chris played a very important role in the saving of
boards or two and we’ll hear about that in a minute
John khazzani John is one of the great pioneers in space exploration he arrived
at JPL the 1950s and if you’re a fan to the gold record
you have John to thank and dr. ed stone professor of physics Caltech he served
as director of JPL from 1991 to 2001 and in 1972 he was named the project
scientist for Voyager it is a position he has held for 45 years the one and the
only project scientists that Voyager has ever known will you please give a very
warm welcome to our panelists now there are other members of the
Voyager team who are here some that are still working in the lab some who’ve
made a special effort to be here today and we would be a miss without
acknowledging their contributions to this mission so would you please
everyone who’s ever worked on Voyager would you please stand so we could
recognize you there are a lot of reasons why boards
are so extraordinary and special but one has to do with the alignment of the
planets and I was wondering it if you could tell us what that was all about
well there was a graduate student from Caltech who was up the chickpea old
summer of 1965 and he’s been given the task of looking for opportunities to fly
by a Jupiter as a way to speed things up in the outer solar system so these are
gravity assist flybys and he in that process he discovered that if you
launched a spacecraft in 1977 over 76 or 78 it the planets Jupiter Saturn Uranus
and Neptune were all lined up so that votes with one assist after the other
one could speed the journey out to Neptune normally 30 years down to 12
years and this soon was called the Grand Tour and led to a what eventually became
Voyager 1 and 2 so when this opportunity was there we ready John we’ve never been
to the outer planets we had been any further than Mars right that’s right
we’ve been as far as Mars is as far as we’d been so it was quite a challenge I
mean nerve NASA had funded us an advanced technology development program
to explore development some of the new developed some of the new technologies
that we were going to thought we were going to need the problem was time we
had never developed anything reliably that would last beyond Mars you know we
and nobody had really fun anything beyond Mars before that and so I think
that that thing that’s what occupied our kin our concern for the most part I mean
we build a lot of Mariner spacecraft and the Mariner family didn’t really had a
long series of success but those were mean venus and mars missions and we were
going to take on something that was not gonna take two years or three years it
was gonna take well over 30 years and we’re talking about the Grand Tour but
even when it’s cut back to just Jupiter Saturn was still still 10 or 12 years
and that was kind of scary and you were funded just for going to the first two
of the outer planets and you somehow worked it out so that it was possibility
to go further correct Wow you can tell okay well we were not
supposed to work on anything further than Saturn and that was a pretty strict
direction that we had from headquarters and I wasn’t the first project manager
first project manager was but sure minor and when NASA decided not to go forward
with a grand tour it was sure Meyer who led the charge with an idea look we
don’t have to do all four of those planets let’s just cut it back to two
and it’ll take a less aggressive approach to the technology we won’t have
to use so much new stuff and we can capitalize on the Mariner brand name
because Mariner we had a string of a 10 or 11 successful Mariners missions and
so that sounded like a good idea and headquarters went forth and we got
started I guess it was 72 was was the official go-ahead for that one
interesting thing it does not generally realizes when aboard you went Mariner
Jupiter Saturn 77 is what it was called as a four year mission – and success was
one of the – at least one of actually getting all the way out to Saturn and it
turned out that in those days a fiscal year ended in June and so the mission
had the end in June of 81 and that meant that the aim point to go on to Uranus
was inside the Rings so in fact we until until 19th about 75
or 76 when Voyager was then approved to move the aim point further away and
that’s the reason we arrived later than June reliably in August that was outside
the Rings and in fact could go under Uranus and Neptune was driven by the
fact that fiscal year ended on June 30 and they wanted the mission over by June
30 they were afraid of some project
scientists would make a career out all right well let’s move ahead to the
launch period John I understand you made the decision to launch the first one and
call it voyage or two which confused all of my brethren in the press as to why
you would launch Voyager 2 but it got even more complicated during the actual
launch so let’s see what happened during these Voyager’s programmers had taught the
spacecraft that if it sensed anything unusual to switch to backup systems and
that’s exactly what had already occurred engineers call this fault protection the
fault protection started doing its thing reconfiguring the system we’re still
attached to the launch vehicle it’s in the early stages of its flight and the
first thing we see here the gyros being swapped the launch vehicle as part of
its powered flight went through a roll and spacecraft would never have done
that on his own so spacecraft thought that was a fault I think there are six
or seven different states that it went through in trying to correct the fault
you know well consume I can’t have two gyro as a form must be am a computer is
failed though it switched out we have redundant computers so it stretched out
computers well can’t been that it must have been
something else so it went through this whole sequence of trying things and we
the holy mackerel this spacecraft that looks like it’s going bonkers
and we thought that we’d lost the spacecraft finally we got to separate
from the launch vehicle and we were on our own but the problems weren’t over
the spacecraft was now slowly tumbling Chris help you realize how tired I am of
giving this I don’t care there’s a long version in his short
version I kind of like the way Kasana set up the pace of this there were a
couple of gyro swaps while we were still on the launch vehicle yeah there’s that
picture there you are and fault protection was fairly quiet up till that
point we did the injection burn with the propulsion module that was just right on
separated from the propulsion module and we experienced high rates high tip-off
rates and so we ended up switching thrusters and so for thruster swaps – hi
big swaps and a processor swap later all within 14 seconds or something like that
was a very active time for the fall protection we had never done anything
like that in tests it was a very good stress test for the for the vehicle but
it wasn’t what we were looking for and so finally the thing that saved the day
was that processor swap because that brought online a fresh software load
said as though it were for launch all the errors accrued errors are zero and
so it was like giving the the the spacecraft a second chance and then just
wait for the the craft to recover and recover it did we got to a point where
all the commands all the coded commands in the in the sequence had executed but
we were not pointed at the Sun and so we the spacecraft automatically initiated a
Sun search command and we began turning you know an effort to catch the Sun a
thermal guy once told me he says when in doubt keep moving and that’s really what
you need to do near Earth and so we got through the first turn
no Sun we got through the second turn no Sun and then part way through the third
turn we saw the Sun and the Sun sensor field
of view and the rest was easy one of the hard parts of this though is the fact
that there was a question of whether to reset and you know in the cool guy who
said just let it go was this man here who saved the mission you did just
imagine how it would have been different all right we have to get home because we
haven’t gotten out of Earth orbit yet and just to say that the second launch
had its problems also and fortunately the computer was able to recalculate and
just a few seconds of fuel left invariant yes I know no problem with JPL
engineering on that one so no problem with JPL engineering on the fall
protection either well no just well noted for those of
people might have seen that the father’s film there’s a little bit with Charlie
and me in it in the black house on the second launch one but they all depend
cojes who’s very much involved genius of navigation known Voyager throughout its
mission the other the is sitting in front of a
console and I’m sitting next to him he’s over me he says John this isn’t looking
good I said what’s the problem he says I don’t think we’re gonna achieve the
velocity that’s required and we said we didn’t know why or anything but it was
pretty clear at the end of the second stage burn that we hadn’t made it but
the system was being guided by the extent our guidance system and the
center guidance system knew that there had been a deficit of velocity and it
just kept the Centaur engines burning a little longer and we made up for it but
that was that was amazing and what happened there was a leak in a
propellant line and propellant was being a spin spewed overboard didn’t cause a
fire anywhere it wasn’t supposed to but that’s not so as Voyager 1 was leaving
it took this amazing picture and will show you very historic first time that
we saw the earth and the moon together but let’s get on to get on to our first
planet encounter so if we can roll that video let’s go to Jupiter for seven years we’d been preparing and
suddenly for a period of several months we were overwhelmed with a flood of
discoveries one after the other many every day one of the challenges we had
in planning because all this has to be pre-planned and all has to be loaded
onto the spacecraft and then executed automatically what do we look at when
what do we observe at what time stone knew that taking the position would mean
coping with sizeable squabbles among a science team numbering over 200 I think
the point is it you know we don’t want to work the problem here if there are
some problems I mean there’s got a there’s an outside forum to do it that’s
it was a great training ground for learning how to handle conflicting
science requirements there’s a phrase that shows up in discussing science
conflicts why science is better than your science and if that’s your only
argument you’re not gonna win you’ve got to convince the other guys that you’ve
got a point that your science is worth doing and it’s worth trying to
accommodate it I remember being in the ops center at the first Jupiter
encounter and seeing these pictures returned in real time an image every 42
seconds downlink from the spacecraft at these odd-looking worlds just blew us
away and I really experienced the sense of discovery as we approach tile we saw an object
that looked unlike anything we had ever seen before in fact we have not seen
anything like it since we did not understand what we were looking at at
all it was so different than anything we had imagined and it was only as we were
flying by IO that a navigation image was taken that is an image taken with a deep
exposure to find the stars in the background the navigation engineer Linda
Morabito noticed that there’s this large plume off the limb of this little moon
of Jupiter the phantom moon turned out to be a
gigantic plume of gas and dust shooting skyward from a volcano and that was the
first indication that this is the most volcanically active body in the solar
system a hundred times more volcanic activity than earth and yet it’s just a
small moon orbiting this giant planet all told the two voyagers took more than
33,000 images of Jupiter and it’s major moons what these images and the other
science results revealed was an exotic system that was not only vast but
beautiful and almost beyond imagining it still takes your breath away a bit
doesn’t it so so add two questions for you about about this encounter one is
nothing like this it really happened with scientists before were this coming
down so quickly and the precedent and the public’s wanting you to say what is
it in this whole notion of instant science that you were so involved in can
you talk about the decision you made to do that that was sort of a risk in
another way wasn’t it yeah this all began when I was up at Ames for the
Pioneer 10 encounter with Jupiter and I walked into an auteur iam full of
reporters wanting to know what was happening what was being discovered I
realized we had a wonderful opportunity to communicate but if we had to we had
to prepare for those interactions so the press could really tell the story and so
we set up a schedule of science discussions in the afternoon getting
ready for the press conference the next morning that afternoon more science for
the next press conference next morning and it was a way of doing peer review so
that in fact there was some assurance that we were not talking nonsense but
when you see things like volcanoes that’s a pretty exciting discovery of
course well since nobody had really suggested that kind of volcanic activity
ten times that of Earth so yeah it was this instant science was always a
challenge for because scientists really are used to having peer review in this
these afternoon science discussions were our forum or peer review deciding what’s
ready for this is for the press the next morning you know at that time to get
ready for the next morning you had to send material out for preparation with
images so the imaging team had to choose which images they had to write the
captions prepare them for the printed have them printed until then no digital
if you wanted a picture from Voyager you had to be here collecting it you know
there was no internet there’s none of that it was all you had to be here so he
people who were here really were very advantaged as today everybody can be
there but in those days only a limited number of people could have the sense of
discovery that we all enjoyed day after day after day and you know you sort of
this theme that gets set at Jupiter that will as we go through we’re going to see
through the whole journey through the outer planets of being geologically
alive and the moons being so important of course the moons before Voyager were
just literally points of light but we had some idea of color because that you
could get from a point of light but other than that we had little to know
about what these worlds are like and it turns out they’re all they’re diverse
they’re distinct bodies if they could have all been heavily cratered ancient
surfaces there I think very few such surfaces have been found in the solar
system it’s a very active place out there today let’s go to Saturn as Voyager 1 bore down on Saturn the
spacecraft was clocking nearly a million miles a day and each day
Saturn revealed itself in some new way along the tremendous surprises there was
that we could be you know still more than a million kilometres away and we
could see structure in the Rings more and more the Rings were revealing their
intricate and baffling structures for many scientists the moon Titan was
as important as Saturn itself Titan is so large that if it orbited the Sun
rather than Saturn it would be called a planet it was already known that this
was the only moon in the solar system having a substantial atmosphere this
might be a place some scientists theorized that resembled the earth
before life arose and that made this moon an irresistible target but getting
the best possible views came with a steep price
it required Voyager ones tour of the planets to end at Saturn that was the
choice made for Titan was deemed that important there was this great hope that
we’d be seeing down to the surface through this thick atmosphere and we
would discover you know amazing things as we got closer at the time when we
should have started to see features and resolution it was awfully blank
although the hazy images of Titan were disappointing the atmosphere was found
to be like our planet rich in nitrogen as hoped this was in some ways a
primordial earth after Titan Voyager 1 swept underneath
Saturn and then rose up out of the plane of the ecliptic and headed up towards
interstellar space to look at that and realize that your
spacecraft yours basically saying must have felt like you were saying goodbye
to it at that point you didn’t know how long it would last and you built this
thing and bye-bye after Titan it was that was that Todd phone on you as an
engineer or as a scientist actually of course this was just the beginning of
the interstellar mission in fact when we finished satyr before Saturn it was
called the Jupiter Saturn Titan mission and for various Voyager to is the
Jupiter Saturn ex missions JSX Jupiter Saturn X where X was either
Uranus or Titan again if the larger one had not flown by Titan and gotten the
data Voyager 2 would have done the same thing and ended up going up out of the
plane of the ecliptic and no more planets so in that sense larger one did
its job for Voyager 2 would you have done that
even if with fours or one you didn’t get exactly what you wanted you felt like
you needed to go back I think we would not have done that if but if Voyager 1
had not worked Oh in fact NASA said this is a mission to Saturn you need to do a
Saturn mission and if you want to do Titan which is clearly a very important
thing to do you end up up out of the plane of the ecliptic that was a clear
guidance from headquarters and but sure Meyer who was the first project manager
was very very firm on us observing that we were not to look at anything beyond
Saturn and this was a Saturn mission focused on Saturn and the primary
objective at Saturn was Titan and if we did not achieve all that all of the
Titan objectives is the way I remember we were going to pretend that it’s twin
spacecraft Voyager 2 right back that was the plan we had targeted dvorovoi to do
differently as Saturn because what you could single spacecraft can fly by close
to only one or two of them owns you can’t get all four so what we purposely
did was to focus Voyager 2 on Europa which was the only one of the four moons
that we had not gotten up close and of course what we discovered was it looked
like a cracked icy surface on a liquid water ocean
that’s what it looked like and with no mountains and no valleys and just these
stress cracks where stuff had come out on the surface of the ice it told me it
looked like the cue ball he used to play pool with in the Caltech so of course
we’ve had fire now we have have ice oh this variation going on now we’re about
to go to Uranus and Susie this is where you come into the picture yeah no you
were just getting out of college a little college down the street there in
Pasadena I went to Caltech so it was close by and matter of fact I found
about found out about the job at JPL from being on campus and people that
know me know I do a lot of swimming person and Elaine next to me said hey I
hear about this job this job at JPL and it’s great it’s been fabulous let’s
let’s go and relive that experience at Uranus now after triumphs at Jupiter and
Saturn Voyager 2 was closing in on the first encounter ever with the ice giant
planet Uranus Voyager’s journey to this point had
taken over eight years and the wear and tear of a billion miles
was beginning to show the scan platform that moved voyagers camera was prone to
seizing up transmitting instructions to the
spacecraft was an elaborate chore as the primary receiver was no longer
functioning and the backup was only partially working getting a signal back
from Voyager was a challenge to one-way transmission time now tuck three hours
the extension of the mission to Uranus and Neptune I think highlights really
one of the unsung heroes of JPL and that the Deep Space Network the Deep Space
Network is a group of antennas arrayed in three strategic locations around the
globe this is the essential link for tracking
and communicating with all of NASA’s interplanetary spacecraft those
encounters at Uranus and Neptune would have been impossible without what the
Deep Space Network the DSN did to get that data back when you think about it
you’ve got the Voyager radio transmitter powered at about 23 watts which is about
the power of your refrigerator light bulb and we’re trying to pick up that
signal here on earth from well over a billion miles away and picking out that
very tiny little signal from that vast background of outer space is really a
remarkable achievement when you think about it Uranus was a real planning challenge and
the reason why is one we only get one shot and – Uranus is kind of turned up
on its edge and we’re now instead of seeing the the moons in kind of a plane
where you can fly through this plane and get one after the other we’re looking at
a bull’s-eye that meant that the flyby of Uranus and its moons and rings would
occur nearly simultaneously coping was so much to see in such a short period of
time would make this the most intense of all the Voyager encounters you’re given
this pulse of data no one’s ever seen and you get it all at once you get high
resolution comes up very very quickly because these moons are small and you
flying by it at large velocity so in a blink of an eye basically you go from a
very low resolution image to in-your-face high resolution and then
gone again the initial calculation showed that we were going to in great
danger of getting really fuzzy pictures of practically everything if we didn’t
do something and so we actually did some reengineering on the spacecraft to help
with the engineering teams we called it our anti s’more campaign we basically
improved our camera platform in flight by remotely changing how we operated well Susie it starts off that segment
talking about this unsung hero of the deep space network you know or the
director of the deep space network and why don’t you tell us why it was such a
song you know any mission deep space mission depends on the Deep Space
Network and the Deep Space Network started approximately in the early 60s
and as it likes to say the Voyager and the DSN grew up together there were a
lot of enhancements made to the D space network particularly for Voyager one of
the enhancements was being able to array antennas on the ground for the uranus
downlink and between the uranus and neptune counter we increased the size of
the 64 meter antennas to 70 meters just particularly for Voyager as well as
Neptune in particular we had two array other assets besides the Deep Space
Network the very large array we arrayed into the Deep Space Network to get the
data back and you know the DSN folks are very dedicated to what they do they are
the unsung heroes you you would get zero data back from any mission in from Mars
and Beyond without the Deep Space Network and and and honestly they’re
sort of happy to sit in the background and just be part of the the crowd so to
speak but they it’s a very important function and we wouldn’t have the data
we have today without without the antennas and Chris we’re now at the
point where for jurors a Voyager 2 is aging and I think it’s arthritic with an
arm it’s a little hard of hearing or a lot of hard of hearing can you talk
about some of the engineering challenges that you have it with the spacecraft at
this point well I mean one thing you notice right away is that there’s very
little redundancy left on either space for that’s right that’s right and the problem that gives you is you still
have people on the team who want to figure out some way to use the equipment
that we have even if it fails you know is there a way we can go through some
back door and and find another function that we can use instead those things
don’t exist really but it keeps the team sharp and it makes them it makes them
think of other creative ideas to make make the mission that we have ahead of
us still a very meaningful mission I think it’s really spectacular too and
you think about it there there’s two spacecraft that are still operating not
just one but two that have gone from a four year mission to a four decade
mission and that’s really remarkable and I I’ve read a lot on the history of
Voyager and picking up on something that John said you know it was designed as a
four year mission the engineers or the me let’s just put this way the managers
were told not to think beyond four years the engineers all fought beyond four
years when if you look when you look at the history of it they’ll say well I had
a choice between Part A and Part B part Part B was gonna last me longer I chose
that part I didn’t tell my boss you know I wanted to make it as robust as
possible and it’s true and I think the boss has kind of looked a different way
as long as it didn’t you know affect the budget too much the boss looked the
other way and Voyager was built his robustly as possible well you’re
absolutely right about that I was the manager of division 34 before I went
over to Voyager and what I told the people in Division
34 was look we’ve got to be very very sure that we don’t build anything into
this spacecraft design-wise that’s going to limit its life other than the
Expendables and we made some design changes that I never told sir mayor Bell and along those lines was a Sun sensor I
want a Sun sensor at the Saturn you’re down to factor of 100 you could design
it for that and as soon as you leave go beyond Saturn guess what you couldn’t
see the Sun anymore so in fact they put in an op-amp in to increase the gain so
that in fact now we’re over almost 140 astronomically other way and they still
knows where the Sun is there’s so much foresight given by the part of the
engineers and the scientists to say we want to make this an interstellar
mission as John said don’t do anything that screws that up and do what’s ever
in your power to make this mission last as long as possible you see I want to
ask you about as is engineering what can you learn from Voyager that for these
young engineers here who may not have even been weren’t born show of hands of
people that are actually 40 or under if you want to admit it all right that’s
great that’s great so you know let’s take a moment here and just see if we
can impart some wisdom what mighty sense I’ll ask Chris to add his in a minute
because Chris designed it and he’s now come back to help us work through the
next 10 years of the mission let’s say but I have two takeaways the first one I
kind of mentioned was the fact that the engineers designed it to be his robust
as possible I think you can take that away for any mission you’re building but
do your best job and build in the robustness to make to make those Rovers
last more than 90 days last more than two years or whatever mission you’re
working on secondly a Christian chime in as we are into the
you know 41 for for the first year of the Voyager mission we are trying to go
back and look at why decisions were made on fault protection or designs in the
software and things like that and oftentimes you can actually find the
decision but you can’t find any of the discussion of why the decision was made
and when I go back and ask you know Chris what did you mean when you wrote
this memo in 1982 and he’s like let me go see what I can find in a box that
I’ve sent out to archives you know so so in the you know in the fury of getting
ready to get a mission launched you designing things keep a record of what
you designed keep the rationale keep those notebooks ed stone can can go in
his office and pull out a notebook from 1979 and go to the exact page he needs
to go to to find an answer I don’t know how many of you could do that so it’s
important to document the rationale for decisions and and it will help the
people who fly the mission and if you’re you’re a person that generally just
builds spacecraft and then goes to the next thing you’re building and you don’t
you’re not involved in the operations it’s it’s key for you to pass on that
development knowledge to the operations people your your successes as a
developer is depends on the success of the mission getting the science back and
so you you need to help the operations folks by doing due diligence in the
development phase when we take on a new task and I did some things that I never
told John about to work for me to move move the
state-of-the-art forward to improve the systems that we build so that they can
they they can get the best science not just the required science with the best
science that you know there’s some things we could be doing that make a lot
of sense I’m not telling you not to tell your boss but I think there’s there’s a
lot of capability here that doesn’t get exercised because we limit ourselves to
what the what the last system looked like anything from the science side for
a young scientist well I think the the interesting thing JPL does is
commissions that go where where nothing’s been before do things that
haven’t been done before that’s what science is all about is observing nature
and understanding nature and I think that’s the and Sun and you and what’s
required as an investment in the case of Voyager we spent five years from started
project to launch and no science for five years but getting ready and then
when we finally got there in 1979 it was just lots and lots of science exciting
but you have to be patient it doesn’t happen quickly but you have to be
patient alright well I think our spacecraft for
200 its way now to Neptune and let’s see if we can go there and see what happened
the scientists knew that this was an epoch-making
experience their knowledge of our solar system was advancing so quickly just
because of these encounters and I think the scientists realized this they got
caught up in this enthusiasm their curiosity was bubbling over I think that ultimately is also part of
what drove the public response that the public sensed the scientific assignment news crews start descending on JPL you
start having all these news vans out in the parking lot you have the press
conferences attended by hundreds of people from the media which was
something I think that you didn’t see previously for a lot of scientific
events I think that’s fairly safe to say normally my experience had been getting
press attention and wanting to tell my story in this case the press wanted us
to tell the story they had become in a sense kind of space junkies they like
the space program they knew about it and they became in a sense almost fans of
JPL what is the albedo of clean ice that it’s that is not exactly purely clean
ice and not exactly dirty ice two rows back please do you have a rough handle
on the what the orbital period or the velocity of a theoretical moon in the
Cassini division would be in the second drawer there’s been a hand up for some
time we seem to be losing the distinction between small moons and
large ring particles and I’d like to know if anybody is able to come up with
a definition now which is which those of us would like to count moons they’re
starting to get worried with each encounter Voyager became better known
and scientists and engineers were more media savvy some were even doubling up
as news anchors morning we have dr. Jay Hobart I just got asked I think Jay Bell
was looking for a young female engineer who knew something about the Voyager
project and what Voyager was gonna do daaad joined the Voyager team right out
of college she had moved up the ranks and was now responsible for the commands
that would have Voyager executing a daredevil flyby of Neptune I thought
okay my career is kind of riding on this one because I built the closest approach
sequence and if it goes wrong it’s it’s my you know it could be my fault then
the gravitational force of the planet bent the spacecraft downwards towards
the final flyby scientists who were accustomed to extraordinary sights were
still amazed by what they saw at Neptune’s moon Triton last night was
certainly a night to be remembered I think it’s the most exciting night that
I can remember from any of the encounters that we’ve had with Voyager
and there have been some exciting nights without a question the images that were
returned this morning revealed a world unlike any of the others that we’ve seen these were erupting geysers shooting out
material miles into space other places they were lava like flows of ice all of
it believed caused by volcanic processes underneath Triton surface a world at the
very very edge of the solar system frozen we thought would be completely
geologically dead and it turns out to be geologically active how’s the great
surprise once again it’s a moon that steals the
show here yeah I really think of Isle and Triton as the bookends for the
planetary era of the larger I mean there’s surprises at the beginning and
even at the end the temperature there was – 390 degrees Fahrenheit nitrogen is
frozen solid in the icy polar cap and yet a little bit of heat and you get
plumes it’s just told us that in fact nature is
much more capable than we would have imagined basically given our cartera
centric view of planets you’re at the point now where this part of the mission
is ending and when you reflect it back on it do you think were the the biggest
takeaways to share with the public about this outer planet exploration I think it
really it was just the diversity of bodies in the solar system I think
that’s what if they could have all been heavily cratered ancient bodies but in
fact that’s not the way it is and today we know there are other stellar so
planetary systems and they’re all different than our system so it just
says there from a science point of view there’s an enormous amount that to be
learned about planets moons rings and magnetic fields they were all different
and we’re different than we expected and we learned a lot and there’s still more
to be learned yeah I’m glad that it went well your secrets there I wouldn’t be
sitting here today if it didn’t go well so yeah yeah but it was you know Voyager
I think most people who worked on it would say that it’s definitely up there
as a career highlight for for them it is for me personally and I just feel so
fortunate that I was able to work at at the beginning of my career and I’m
working on the project now I might make it to the end of my career I don’t know
you know as I always say I like I’d like to get boy drew – 50 years please come
back and in 10 more years it’s it’ll be hard but Chris will be around helping me
helping me out remembering the what memos he wrote down and things like that
but boy there’s a is a great mission tonight and I think most the people that
have worked on it and the ones that are still working on it today
I feel very fortunate to to have been involved with it and to be involved with
dr. stone appreciate the your your time and from the media there being a
broadcaster there and I want to talk a little bit about the public and in the
media I was reading today in the New York Times an article by one of these
reporters who came out here we live in a different world now but they back then
they would come together and became almost like a veterans group that would
get together every few years to have these these reunions and and for the
public itself I think the the Voyager record John that I know you were
inspired by by what the Pioneer mission had done they’d started that off but
tell us a little bit about why you decided to have something done on this
spacecraft that ended up being the Voyager record that’s that’s John by the
way well I I remember very clearly the event that happened with Pioneer 10
where the Carl and some others had put a plaque Carl Sagan had put a plaque on
the side of this spacecraft that showed the outline just the outline form of a
human male and female naked but there wasn’t anything much to see but they
were so anyhow but it created a such a stir in the among the public in the
press and you know their comment with somebody said NASA was sending smut into
space and all that kind of stuff but you know to me it it represented a real
connection between the project and the public and after all the public is the
people that pay for this right they they always used to tell you we’ve got to
have missions that are publicly engaging not just scientifically worthwhile I
remember when I was imagining chin vision 34 there was a I wasn’t on the
project yet but we were providing hardware for the project and there was
some review I was sitting up and I asked the question are you guys gonna put on
spacecraft and they said what what for I said well then the messages and they
said no but then I got to be project manager and so remembering the pioneer
think Carl Sagan was on the project at that time and he was a pretty good
friend of mine and so I called him up one day and said hey Carl you know we
need to have something on this spacecraft are you willing to take a
crack at it he said absolutely yes said give me a proposal he came back with 25k
and three or four people he was gonna put together as a team and they had sort
of a general outline and ice I said good go ahead with it and so that that came
the record and I think the record is tremendous we had three things on that
spacecraft that were all messages to three different groups of people one we
got everybody who was working on the project and all our families and
significant others there were 6,000 we had a big family day spacecraft was in
the thermal vac chamber we had tables set up outside there people could write
their name and we had 6,000 signatures and we photographically reduced them to
a little 6 by 9 aluminum foil and they went into the thermal blankets so that
was that was a message that was a message to the people that we are
knowledge economy by putting your name or your name of your family and friends
on it so that was one the other one was American flag the American flag was
acknowledgement to the taxpayers we recognize you we recognize this country
and the dedication of everybody in the country who supported it as this and the
third message was the message said Carlson you know which was not only a
message to the aliens if there ever were any but it was also a message he was I
think trying to stimulate people on the earth to think about how you would go
about communicating with a totally foreign society or a totally alien
culture and there was a lot of that was embedded in a message define ourselves
and how we define ourselves I was going to add that as a project
manager today we get lots and I’m sure Edna’s to get lots of emails from all
over the world both congratulations about the great science that Voyager
does but also you know congratulations that there’s this gold record that
there’s this time capsule we’re sending out there that really resonates with the
general public and I think that’s what makes Voyager so world-renowned and
known by everybody I like to say that the two voyagers after they finished
their current interstellar mission will be orbiting the Milky Way galaxy for
billions of years and they’ll be our there’ll be Earth’s silent silent
ambassadors and the golden record is sort of the calling card carried by
those silent ambassadors this is a very inspiring thing for the public at large
it turns out they’ll last longer than our planet and our star so it’s just
like the final picture of looking back on the solar system it has absolutely no
scientific value but it is a tremendous significance you know a perspective and
the the golden record is the same way there’s no science on you in that but
it’s a connection to two people you know underneath it all is the people in this
room and the thousand yes and it’s not only engineering its commitment and
dedication and perseverance and I was thinking when you were asking one of the
lessons we had another kind of a mascot motto on on Voyager it was an image a
cartoon image of a bird I think it was a pelican or something and in front of the
Pelican was a frog and the Frog had his front legs around the neck of the
pelican and pelican had the frogs head in his mouth and again the caption was
don’t ever give up and that was a reminder to all of us you
know this but you know there were the examples of that the unsticking of a
scan platform it looked like it was over there for a while but a couple of guys
that notice keep working on this and then recovery from the failed tracking
loop capacitor on one of the radio you know where that DSN guys came in with a
programmable VCO or something that we could match the whatever the receiver
was doing from the ground based on you know trajectory analysis and everything
like that well we need to move into the next phase of the mission which is
historic also and the first interstellar object ever in the history of humankind
yes the Sun protects all the planets who have that solar wind million mile per
hour wind creates a huge plasma bubble around the Sun itself and the bubble
envelops all of the planets we flew by and we had no ha idea how big the bubble
was we had an idea but we didn’t have any very very accurate so we didn’t know
how long it would take to get there we didn’t know how long spacecraft could
launch after all the long space age itself was only twenty years old and
Voyager was launched so there was no empirical evidence that anything could
last 30 or 40 years but in fact boards or one did leave the solar bubble the
heliosphere in August of 2012 and is now exploring nearby interstellar space
where the material comes from other stars than our Sun and where the
magnetic field is the magnetic field of the Milky Way galaxy which is being
wrapped around the outside of the Heliospheric bubble so and what we
discovered out there is that the cosmic rays which we measure here on earth
are more than four times more intense outside we didn’t know how many were
what the radiation environment was like it could have been hundreds of thousand
times worse turns out it’s only four times who are
senators earth and ants and we will be studying that aspect of interstellar
space as well in the in the remaining life that Voyager has with its
radioisotope thermoelectric generators I’d like to close out by actually having
a sense of where in 1977 the greatest adventure in space
exploration commenced our eyes our minds are our souls are moving out through the
universe you can only do things for the first time once and voyager kept doing
things for the first time over and over again two robots were built to be able
to think and explore by themselves in the deep reaches of our solar system
none of the managers really appreciated the complexity in the autonomy that we
just launched into space yet both missions went seriously wrong only
moments after taking flight we thought that we’d lost the spacecraft they went
on to make astounding and unexpected discoveries and you see things that you
did not predict that’s when there is the most to learn five is
77 the greatest adventure in space exploration commence our eyes our minds
are our souls are moving out through the universe you can only do things for the
first time once and voyager kept doing things for the first time over and over
again two robots were built to be able to think and explore by themselves in
the deep reaches of our solar system none of the managers really appreciated
the complexity and the autonomy that we just launched into space yet both
missions went seriously wrong only moments after taking flight we thought
that we’d lost the spacecraft they went on to make astounding and unexpected
discoveries and you see things that you did not predict that’s when there is the
most alert forty years ago the greatest adventure
in space exploration began with the launch of the fortress and we’re here
today to remember to celebrate and to find out what these magnificent machines
are still doing I want to introduce our panelists but if you will please hold
your applause to the end first is Suzy Dodd Suzy’s first job out of college was
to work on border she went on to become the project manager of order and had
that top job when Voyager 1 became the first spacecraft ever to reach
interstellar space Chris Jones is JPL’s chief engineer he helped to bring the
voyagers into being in these days he’s still providing advice and guidance on
how to keep them working Chris played a very important role in the saving of
voyager 2 and we’ll hear about that in a minute
john khazzani john is one of the great pioneers in space exploration he arrived
at JPL the 1950s and if you’re a fan to the gold record
you have John to thank and dr. ed stone professor of physics Caltech he served
as director of JPL from 1991 to 2001 and in 1972 he was named the project
scientist for Voyager it is a position he has held for 45 years the one and the
only project scientists that Voyager has ever known will you please give a

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