Anniversary Post: Voyager 2

Voyager 2On this day in 1977, Voyager 2 was launched from Earth. It was actually launched before Voyager 1 — you know astronomers. Well actually, because of the route it took, it actually ended up visiting Jupiter and Saturn afterwards. And since the only thing that most people care about are the pretty pictures (Not that I’m complaining!) it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The remarkable thing is that Voyager 2 — now in space for 38 years — is still operating. In the next couple of years, it is expected to start sending data about the density and temperature in the interstellar region. It is currently over 100 AU (one AU is the distance from the earth to the sun). That’s over twice the distance to Pluto at Pluto’s greatest distance from the sun. It is believed that Voyager 2 will continue sending data back to earth until 2025.

I had always thought that Voyager 2 was the spacecraft that was repaired by aliens and made self-aware in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. But that’s not true. It was actually Voyager 6. If you don’t remember that spacecraft, it is probably because it never existed. In the universe of the film, NASA launched it but then lost sight of it. Still: really not a bad film at all!

Happy anniversary Voyager 2!

19 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Voyager 2

  1. The pictures are pretty, though. I took a undergrad course in planetary geology that was taught by Dr. Phil Christiensen, who I have later seen on television a couple of times for a quote about the various Mars rovers. He referred to them as “JPL propaganda photos”. It was an interesting class. I am also fond of lamenting the carbon units that infest the surface of the third planet. That movie deserves more love. And it created, for some people, a crisis in the Star Trek cannon. It was the Klingon heads. Original series Klingons looked sort of Mongolian or Turkish, a king of swarthy Oriental type. And that worked because it was cheap and you could easily tell who the Bad Guys were. Then the film makers decided that they had the money and sixteen years or so of advances in VFX and makeup and voila, rubber head aliens. And some fans or writers just couldn’t leave it alone that the old TV show Klingons looked different. So there are episodes of DS9 and Enterprise that provide a plot explanation. Which begs the question (you are probably wondering why I’m still typing) of why the Romulans get the rubber head treatment in Next Gen and no one seems to care. And I will close by saying that the Next Gen and on TV shows turned the Klingons from menacing Asiatic hordes into boorish Russian caricatures who are doing Samurai cosplay.

    • Very accurate, although Worf grew into one of my favorite characters — mostly because Michael Dorn had a great “I’m hiding my annoyance with you” face he’d do. That expression was always funny.

      One of my favorite old “Trek”s featured the Klingons and the Enterprise both trying to convince a planet rich in Space Oil to join their respective empires. The peace-loving aliens end up telling both empires to piss off.

      • Michael Dorn really carried that part, and without much support from the writers early on. As they say, The Higher The Fewer.

      • Okay James, I re read your post and now I’m curious if it’s a TOS episode you are talking about.
        It’s not Errand Of Mercy, or Day of the Dove, or Tribbles. I don’t think it’s A Private Little War. Is it Elaan of Troyius or Friday’s Child? Without cheating and running through the lot at Memory Alpha I can’t recall other TOS episodes with Klingons.

        • A “Trek” expert! I had to look it up. It was “Errand Of Mercy.” I had the plot a little fuzzy in memory, but I got the end right — the Organians send both Kirk and the Klingons packing. They’re one of those advanced super-species that show up in “Trek” every so often and you wonder why they just don’t go around the universe, using their magic weapons-disarming power to end war?

          Which makes me ask — what ever happened to V’ger and that probe from ST4? Did they go off content and never pester anybody again? Did Spock tell the whales “please ask these folks to keep their CB turned off the next time they visit a galaxy, it’s got too strong a signal for the Federation FCC.” Maybe he did, but the whales ignored him and shared Dumb Human jokes with the thing.

          • Not really spelled out in either case. I assume the probe in ST4 just sails back to Planet Whale. It it difficult to speculate on what George and Gracie could possibly have communicated to the probe given their brief dialogue. Perhaps it is a highly efficient language. Darmok on the ocean. Darmok, when the walls fell. And they never tried speaking Whale to it like Dori in Finding Nemo. They should get Ellen DeGenneres to do that for a special edition of ST4. The end of TMP is a little wierder and less specific. V’ger transmits all it’s accumulated knowledge, which Earth sensors collect for latter. Deker and Ilea get transubstantiated or ascended or something. The actual V’ger ship thing seems to disappear. It’s almost like the ‘fortress collapses when you beat the bad guy’ trick from fantasy or adventure stories. I always thought there was a missed opportunity to connect V’ger with Nomad from TOS. V’ger is basically a very Big Boss version of Nomad. And why not, eventually, have the alien intelligence both encountered turn out to be the Borg?

            • Yeah, they could have done more with V’ger. It’s, basically, the most amazing AI entity in the history of anything. And the Enterprise teaches it To Love, problem solved. You’d think the data it sent back to NASA (or future NASA, or whatever) at the end would blow the mind of everyone in the universe for 1000 years. But we never hear about it again. Maybe the data it collected was mostly space porn, and because it didn’t know how To Love, it didn’t realize the data was mostly repetitive.

      • TNG sucked. It was all Roddenberry’s fault — he tried to fix TOS and ruined it. That didn’t stop me from watching the first four seasons obsessively, however.

        • Your TOS religion is vile, you hear me? Vile.

          Nah, I get it. For one thing you stopped watching at just about the point Roddenberry died and the writers were freed from constraints he insisted on like “the Enterprise has to be in danger every episode.”

          Also, I think people who enjoy “Trek” do so for two reasons. One camp sees it as any other television show; the other responds to the humanist idealism of the thing. As a television show, both have a lot more clunker episodes than good ones, but there’s more drama in TOS.

          Even the bad TOS episodes have the philosophical differences between Kirk/Spock/McCoy to keep them watchable. The crew on TNG has no philosophical differences, just different character traits (Riker’s a slut, Picard’s an intellectual, etc.) They’re all on the same team.

          I was pretty young when I got into Trek, maybe nine or so. So I always responded to the idealism. I wanted to be on that ship and not in my abusive home/bullying school. I think a lot of nerds felt the same way.

          I was older, and largely bored by TNG when it came out, but I watched enough to know the characters. I went back to it a few years ago, and while the clunkers are still awful, I loved the good episodes dearly. (Most of them are in the last seasons.) My inner child idealist came out. The very thing which makes it dull as drama makes it great as idealism — people can work together to solve problems, and bullying is always the stupidest answer.

          The one where Picard gets tortured and gives a speech on how torture demeans both victim and assailant. The one where Picard lives out a full lifetime in his mind as a simple astronomer in a different culture. And the one Lawrence mentioned, “Darmok,” where Picard has to communicate with a alien (Paul Winfield) whose language is made up entirely of metaphors. It probably makes no logical sense, but dang, sometimes when I’m really depressed, I’ll put that one on, it always cheers me up. (That or “Fawlty Towers” or “MST3K” or something funny.)

          Basically TNG fans fell in love with Picard, and why not? He’s a leader who respects the people he works with, a sexy guy who prefers intelligent women (I think it’s suggested he used to be with Dr. Crusher, and now they are good friends — it’s science fiction), someone who abhors violence yet stands up for the weak. And dabbles in the history of ancient cultures! He’s a badass!

          But, yeah, as TV drama goes, Kirk/Spock/McCoy are more compelling. It’s easy to see why Spock became a fan favorite. He’s intended to be alien but really comes off as the outsider who can see when insiders are acting irrationally.

          • I try to stay out, but they drag me back in! The main problem with TNG was that the characters were too well adjusted. You put it in a different and insightful way. The problem with this is that the episodes lacked drama and became little more than narrative puzzles. My favorite episode of that period was “Yesterday’s Enterprise” where there was a great deal of drama. (BTW: I met the story writer at a Star Trek convention — yes, I went to a Star Trek convention — two actually.) But ultimately, what TOS had was Bones — a crotchety old man who wasn’t happy being in space. That’s a character I can get behind! But I loved the Q episodes on TNG. And I overall liked the series. In fact, for years, the only reference to me on the internet were something I had added to the Star Trek FAQ. But I liked DS9 more. And then I discovered drugs.

    • I’m not sure I want to get into this. I’m fascinated by the way that 1960s television pushed the Cold War. The Klingons were the Soviets. There was never any question of that. It went right along with the American narrative of our allowing countries to to self-determine and the Soviet Union did not. That was all nonsense of course.

      • Yeah, it basically feels the way Roddenberry described it — as “Wagon Train” in space. Pioneers brought civilization to the American west and America was going to bring democracy to the universe.

        I always loved the “Prime Directive” — don’t interfere with another planet’s culture. Because the Enterprise breaks it all the time! If some horrible war is about to erupt and the Enterprise could stop it by beaming down twenty space UN soldiers, it’s “nope, can’t, Prime Directive.” But if, say, Kirk screws up everything by banging a hottie, well, attack team go! Basically if interfering won’t affect the Federation one way or the other don’t bother, but jump in anytime if it’s useful to the (benevolent) empire. The Federation is kinda spooky . . .

        • That’s another great thing about TOS: it’s so campy. I love the comedies like “A Piece of the Action.” Kirk would never have been made a captain. He’s a loose cannon. That’s why Firefly is so great. That kind of story really has to be about rebels.

          • Kirk doesn’t get enough credit for being an intellectual. We are told that in the academy he was a stack of books with legs, and if you were in his class you had to ‘think or sink’. So, There is a part of your critique that is valid. Navies, and Starfleet absolutely is one, are thrifty stewards of their ships. Especially peacetime navies. The Federation is not in a state of war during Kirk’s command (either time) of the Enterprise. I have an uncle who was conning a destroyer and ran it aground on a sandbar. You don’t get a second chance. There is more of a frontier feel to Star Trek TOS. Intentionally. However big or small Federation Space actually is, there are only 12 Constitution class cruisers to secure it.
            Your perception of Kirk’s fitness or likelyhood of command is colored by living in an age of false meritocracy and purchased credentials.

            • That’s a good point. But the show is based upon our modern notions of the world. Kirk in TNG would clearly not work out. But even in TOS he — and he alone — is the one that manages to succeed by being an individual. One assumes that Scotty did much the same thing — getting away with stuff because of his total brilliance.

  2. Late addition to the thread, but I found this by accident today and it’s terrific.

    So everyone knows that “Voyager” had that record with human voices, whale songs, music, etc? Well, Carl Sagan, head of the committee designing the possible messages to aliens, wanted the Beatles song “Here Comes The Sun.” The Beatles loved the idea. EMI didn’t. They nixed the idea for copyright reasons.

    Let’s get this straight. The Klingons, or whoever, are going to find a satellite in deep space (which will have stopped transmitting a few years from now.) They’ll decipher the instructions how to play the record. They’ll travel to Earth and hit a record store. And when the store clerk says, “you should buy this single,” the Klingons will answer, “nope, don’t need that one, we already have a free copy.” And EMI would lose out on whatever a single cost when Voyager was launched.

    Here’s the bit Wiki sourced for the story: http://www.kvart-bolge.com/#!The-Truly-Most-Expensive-Record-Ever-25-billion-dollars-no-Beatles-and-no-nudity/c1rr6/557a38940cf2c5991af3e149

    This was so awesome I looked into it more, and it’s true. 30 years later, once Sony owned the Beatles songs, they did allow NASA to aim a transmission of “Across The Universe” at Polaris.

    Also Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan fell in love working on the record committee, and wrote “Cosmos” together (Druyan worked on the new one, too.) So something nifty came of the record!

    • I’m amazed that story is true, because it is just too perfect. But of course they wouldn’t allow the song on the album. Imagine the millions, billions, trillions of “people” who might hear it. Imagine the possible court cases and the lost profits. Regardless, corporations only think one quarter ahead. That’s one of the reasons we are so screwed up.

      BTW: “Across the Universe” is one of Lennon’s best songs.

      And Sagan’s first wife was much greater. I got to meet her. I still have a crush. But his second wife is probably more my kind of woman. Druyan? Seems all right. I never thought much of Comet.

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