Thursday, September 19, 2013


According to the Times (“In a Breathtaking First, NASA’s Voyager 1 Exits the Solar System," NYT, 9/12/13)  on August 25, 2012, Voyager I, originally launched in l977, passed from “solar plasma” or what is known as the heliosphere to “the plasma of interstellar space.” In lay terms Voyager I exited the solar system to begin the next stage of its journey. Travelling at the speed of 38,000 miles per hour it will take about 40,000 years to reach its next destination “a dwarf star dispassionately known as AC+793888 in the constellation of Camelopardalis,” according to the Times. Reading the Times story at first creates a feeling of déjà vu. You may not have heard of this star or that constellation but it all sounds like an episode of Star Trek. The Stars My Destination is the title of novel by the sci fi writer Alfred Bester, first serialized in Galaxy Magazine back in l956. What’s hard to awaken to is the fact that this isn’t science fiction and that the self-same level of capability that sent Voyager I into orbit could easily have sent off a much large ship, say something capable of carrying a biosphere. Following Moore’s Law computer chips keep getting more and more powerful. According to the Times when Voyager I left the earth 36 years ago it had computers “with one-240,000th the memory of a low-end iPhone.” If those computers took it the first ll.7 billion miles to the edge of interstellar space, one can only imagine the capability of future Voyagers powered by quantum chips. The story made it to the front page of the print edition of the paper, but containing all the usual diagrams, it looked like a lot of pieces that have been written about NASA space missions. However, if you looked closely at the photo, you could see the chrysalis of the spacecraft that would some day transport generations of a dying civilization to their new home on a far away star.

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