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During the movement of the Shuttle Endeavor through the streets of Los Angeles in October I fell into conversation with a couple of guys from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and asked what they knew about where the two Voyagers were and, more importantly, how they were doing. I knew that Voyager I was on the very edge of our solar system and the other, Voyager II, was not far behind. I also knew that, last time I checked, JPL was not quite sure where they were in relation to the outer limits of our solar system.
So the simple question I posed opening the conversation in October was “has Voyager I left the solar system?” I expected simple Yes or No.
The answer I received in October was that JPL was not merely uncertain where Voyager I was in relation to the outer edge of our solar system, but also that “the data we’re receiving is screwy” and it didn’t appear to make sense. In other words, JPL wasn’t sure what was up with Voyager I, but whatever it was, it was functioning, apparently, fine, but it had wandered into a strange neighborhood, indeed. It was a space unlike what had been anticipated or ever seen before.
Fair enough — but would JPL ever likely sort out the data? The answer was Sure, corrected to “maybe” and “we think so.” Why? Because Voyager II was following behind Voyager I and was heading for the same place. Once it got to the same place, JPL figured they might have some firmer theories and at least know if the data coming in was reliable and consistent.
Then, if not before, JPL, I was told, might have some theories.
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From NASA tonight (December 3rd, 2012) …
NASA VOYAGER 1 PROBE ENCOUNTERS NEW REGION IN DEEP SPACE
WASHINGTON — NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has entered a new region at
the far reaches of our solar system that scientists feel is the final
area the spacecraft has to cross before reaching interstellar space.
Scientists refer to this new region as a magnetic highway for charged
particles because our sun’s magnetic field lines are connected to
interstellar magnetic field lines. This connection allows
lower-energy charged particles that originate from inside our
heliosphere, or the bubble of charged particles the sun blows around
itself, to zoom out and allows higher-energy particles from outside
to stream in. Before entering this region, the charged particles
bounced around in all directions, as if trapped on local roads inside
The Voyager team infers this region is still inside our solar bubble
because the direction of the magnetic field lines has not changed.
The direction is predicted to change when Voyager breaks through to
interstellar space. The new results were described at the American
Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco on Monday.
“Although Voyager 1 still is inside the sun’s environment, we now can
taste what it’s like on the outside because the particles are zipping
in and out on this magnetic highway,” said Edward Stone, Voyager
project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology,
Pasadena. “We believe this is the last leg of our journey to
interstellar space. Our best guess is it’s likely just a few months
to a couple years away. The new region isn’t what we expected, but
we’ve come to expect the unexpected from Voyager.”
Since December 2004 when Voyager 1 crossed a point in space called the
termination shock, the spacecraft has been exploring the
heliosphere’s outer layer, called the heliosheath. In this region,
the stream of charged particles from the sun known as the solar wind
abruptly slowed down from supersonic speeds and became turbulent.
Voyager 1’s environment was consistent for about five and a half
years. The spacecraft then detected that the outward speed of the
solar wind slowed to zero.
The intensity of the magnetic field also began to increase at that
Voyager data from two onboard instruments that measure charged
particles showed the spacecraft first entered this magnetic highway
region on July 28, 2012. The region ebbed away and flowed toward
Voyager 1 several times. The spacecraft entered the region again Aug.
25 and the environment has been stable since.
“If we were judging by the charged particle data alone, I would have
thought we were outside the heliosphere,” said Stamatios Krimigis,
principal investigator of the low-energy charged particle instrument,
based at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.
“But we need to look at what all the instruments are telling us and
only time will tell whether our interpretations about this frontier
Spacecraft data revealed the magnetic field became stronger each time
Voyager entered the highway region; however, the direction of the
magnetic field lines did not change.
“We are in a magnetic region unlike any we’ve been in before — about
10 times more intense than before the termination shock — but the
magnetic field data show no indication we’re in interstellar space,”
said Leonard Burlaga, a Voyager magnetometer team member based at
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “The magnetic
field data turned out to be the key to pinpointing when we crossed
the termination shock. And we expect these data will tell us when we
first reach interstellar space.”
Voyager 1 and 2 were launched 16 days apart in 1977 and at least one
of the spacecraft visited Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
Voyager 1 is the most distant human-made object, about 11 billion
miles (18 billion kilometers) away from the sun. The signal from
Voyager 1 takes approximately 17 hours to travel to Earth. Voyager 2,
the longest continuously operated spacecraft, is about 9 billion
miles (15 billion kilometers) away from our sun. While Voyager 2 has
seen changes similar to those seen by Voyager 1, the changes are much
more gradual. Scientists do not think Voyager 2 has reached the
The Voyager spacecraft were built and continue to be operated by
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif. The Voyager
missions are a part of NASA’s Heliophysics System Observatory,
sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission
Directorate in NASA Headquarters in Washington.
For more information about the Voyager spacecraft, visit:
Once the decision was made in 2010 to shutter the American space shuttle program, the program began wrapping up.
The last mission was flown in July 2011, STS-135. It was an add-on mission to supply the International Space Station through the end of 2012 in hopes that SpaceX would be able to get flying in time to re-supply the ISS and to avoid the shut-down of the ISS sometime early in 2013. SpaceX made its first re-supply mission earlier this year. The ISS is safe.
Next the decision was made where to send the shuttles.
The Smithsonian got the oldest surviving member of the fleet, Discovery, but it wasn’t without a fight. Los Angeles, south of Palmdale, where the shuttles were built, got the newest member of the fleet, Endeavour. It was decided toi leave Atlantis in Florida only a few miles where she was repeatedly launched into space.
And Houston where Mission Control and the astronauts live? Houston was one of the two central places in the entire program. Houston got nothing.
Well, almost nothing: — they got the “high definition” shuttle, a mockup built for the Kennedy Space Center.
Meanwhile, Enterprise, which had been at the Smithsonian and was a test vehicle, was sent to New York where, reportedly, it was severely damaged by Tropical Storm Sandy in November 2012.
Why was Houston stiffed? Texans are convinced it was pure politics: — payback from President Barack Obama for not voting for him. It’s what they believe.
On Friday, November 3, 2012, Atlantis, the last of the surviving shuttles and the last shuttle to go to a museum, was guided along the roads at Kennedy Space Center, across open fields and eventually eased into its final resting place only a few miles from where she flew more than 30 missions. Atlantis is home, and now becomes a museum piece and, hopefully, an inspiration for generations to come.
Moving Atlantis on a circuitous 12 mile route to the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center on Friday, November 2, 2012, was easy compared to the challenges of moving the Endeavour two weeks earlier through the streets of Los Angeles to the California Science Center. The distance was the same — the challenges were not.
.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
PeteCrow/NASA, photographs and content, are the copyrighted literary property, © 2012 of Seine/Harbour™ Productions, LLC, Studio City, California. Please visit our other sites, including The World ReBooted® by clicking HERE.
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After moving from the United Airlines Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport to the adjacent Los Angeles suburb of Westchester, the Shuttle sat in a parking lot for about 8 hours, and then in the afternoon resumed its move on the streets of Los Angeles toward its greatest obstacle, the I-405 bridge on Manchester Boulevard. Here, the shuttle stopped, changed carriers and was dragged across the bridge by a Toyota as part of a commercial.
Why Toyota? Why not. Moving the shuttle is ghastly expensive with ahead and behind the convoy armies taking down light poles, street signs and stoplights, laying metal plates to protect utilities and trimming (if not cutting down) trees. And after the shuttle passes? Everything must be put back exactly as before by the end of the weekend. So even the streets are being brushed and then scrubbed.
By late Friday crowds had gathered at the I-405 bridge as the shuttle arrived as the California Science Center handed out t-shirts that read “I Love my Space Shuttle” on the front and “Mission 26: THE BIG ENDEAVOUR!” on the back along with a picture of the shuttle and the California Science Center name.
This is nothing short of joyous.
The trek was to continue on Saturday ending mid-evening Saturday with the Endeavour sliding into its temporary new home for the next few years adjacent to the Los Angeles Coliseum. She will was to begin receiving visitors by the end of October.
.These photographs and text are © 2012 by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC and Peter M. Crow
Early Friday morning Endeavour was plopped right in the middle of the intersection of LaTijera and Sepulveda Way in Westchester in the city of Los Angeles, heading for a donut shop at I-405 and a tug across the highway bridge spanning the interstate courtesy of Toyota.
If you follow the 2,700 metal plates on the streets protecting the utilities for 12 miles from the northern side of LAX along the Pacific Coast Highway — along La Tijera and Manchester, Crenshaw and MLK, after 12 miles you wind up here — where a lot of metal plates cover the lawn beside the California Science Center and lead into this building.
Endeavour — is this your new home? Yes, but only for a couple of years when a grander home and tons of nifty exhibits will result in Endeavour being moved again and stood on end. Nonetheless, while waiting for its new digs, this is the metal box where she will reside and meet her admirers.