I suspect that the longevity may have something to do with the extremely low temperatures the electronics is now running at. If lifetimes double for every 10C reduction then at close to absolute zero this could be very long indeed.
Even educated people often have no perspective on how big space is. I once compared the orbit of Pluto to a pencil dot on the floor, and pointed out that on that scale Proxima Centari would be on the ceiling. Today, I will add the comment that on that scale, the helio-pause would be about the size of a BB. We can talk about the idea that Voyager is now an interstellar spacecraft, but it will be several hundred years before it is closer to another star than it is to our own.
It is a mistake to confuse the design lifetime of something with an estimate of how long it will last. Something that is designed to last a few years usually lasts much longer. Especially if it designed to last those few years in a hazardous environment. This is because it has to be designed for the worst case, and that rarely happens. That NASA's craft have outlasted their design lifes only says that the Engineers did their jobs. This is not to say the fact that we have done this consistently is not something to be proud of. It is something to be very proud of. I am not taking exception to the acheivement, only to the idea that these craft should not be expected to outlive their missions.
It's really that space vehicle electronics are extremely low-volume "product" and so haven't felt the need to be economically driven by Moore's law. The US had to put cold war politics above cost for this to go. Now there is no cold war, cost is the most powerful force. Ensuring reliability is actually too expensive for many consumers.
This is something that US should always will be proud of. With Chinese invading all of the consumer electronics products all over the world, US still keeps its strength and ingenuity when long lasting reliable electronics is required.
I love it! from Wikip.: The Delta Quadrant is home to the Borg Collective, the Kazon, the Vidiians, the Talaxians, the Ocampa, the Hirogen, the Malon, as well as many others. Species 8472, beings from "fluidic space", are first encountered in this quadrant, although they are not native to this region or physical dimension.
WE are NOT alone!
This is very fascinating to me. But also points out how much we have to do to make space exploration even remotely feasible.
It took 35 YEARS merely to get a couple of spacecraft to the edge of our own solar system. Gad-zooks. We need major breakthroughs here, guys, or you can forget visiting even the closest star system (Alpha Centauri). Never mind the Delta Quadrant.
The universe is not wasted space if, as Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork." It's only wasted if we don't get the message. Here we are, trying to make contact, and the message has been streaming in.
We are NOT alone I was told. But we are the only ones who know that.
Deep space exploration is still exciting to follow as is deep water discoveries. Thre is so much we don't know about our environments and about ourselves. Onward, with the looking glass.
NASA's Orion Flight Software Production Systems Manager Darrel G. Raines joins Planet Analog Editor Steve Taranovich and Embedded.com Editor Max Maxfield to talk about embedded flight software used in Orion Spacecraft, part of NASA's Mars mission. Live radio show and live chat. Get your questions ready.
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