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NEXT OCA MEETING
(FREE and open to the public)
Friday September 9th, 2005, 7:30pm
at Chapman University Directions.

Featured Speaker

Tim Hogle, Voyager Spacecraft Systems Engineer, JPL.

The Voyager Mission to the Outer Planets and the Race to Interstellar Space

Tim Hogle.

By his own admission, Tim Hogle is a chronic adventurer and amateur astronomer (OCA Charter member) who has turned to a life of spacecraft operations. In 1978, armed with a degree in electrical engineering and five years of experience flying Navy aircraft, Tim went to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California and signed up for three exciting years of space exploration with the Voyager mission to Jupiter and Saturn, which NASA had launched the previous year. He decided to stay.

Although Voyager was planned as a four-year mission, there was an option to send one of the twin spacecraft (Voyager 2) on to Uranus and Neptune if the Saturn encounters were successful and Voyager 2 was still healthy. In fact, even after Neptune in 1989 both Voyager 1 and 2 were in such good shape that JPL and NASA had to find something else useful to do with them. After all, one could not really justify turning off two very scientifically capable spacecraft that had been NASA's most successful mission ever, and which were on trajectories destined to travel forever out of the solar system, where no other spacecraft had been or would likely go for many decades.

And so the idea of a Voyager Interstellar Mission was conceived, with the objectives of studying the outer reaches of the heliosphere (the region of the sun's influence) and eventually crossing the boundary into interstellar space. The location of this boundary was unknown. And although the spacecraft could theoretically continue providing unique science for another 30 years (until 2020), even at that time the most optimistic mission planners and engineers thought there was only a slim chance that the spacecraft would survive more than another ten years. But both Voyagers are still working fine and appear capable of meeting or exceeding the 30-year goal.

Tim's official title is Voyager Spacecraft Systems Engineer, but he has been (and still is) very much involved with all aspects of spacecraft operations. His long term and wide ranging experience with these spacecraft has made him a key member of the 10-person Voyager flight team.

So come out and hear Tim tell about the history and future of the Voyager mission, including Voyager 1's recent crossing of the solar wind termination shock, for which scientists have been waiting 15 years. He has a personal story of the spell-binding excitement of first-ever planetary flybys, the suspense of anticipating the effects of unknown environments, successes of never-before-attempted feats of navigational accuracy, and the challenges of keeping these old spacecraft going with string and baling wire for a quarter century after their warranty expired - along with expectations for the future.

More info about the Voyager mission may be found at http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov.

 



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