By Olivia LaRosa, September 7, 2012
Today I learned that the Voyager spacecraft has left the
room solar system of Sol, our sun.
During my lifetime, the United States of America sent humans and other life into space WITHOUT COMPUTERS. Thirty-five years ago, Voyager was launched. Now, I know how long it would take me to go from Earth to this fascinating place scientists call “the giant bubble of charged particles the sun blows around itself.”
“When Voyager was launched, the space agency itself was only 20 years old,” noted Stone, who also is a longtime physics professor at the California Institute of Technology. “We always hoped we would reach interstellar space.”
Scientists didn’t just hope for it. They planned for it. The spacecraft’s CRS – Cosmic Ray Subsystem – was intended specifically for use in interstellar space, Stone said.
“It was able to measure many things” along the journey, Stone said, “but its prime purpose was determining the interstellar spectrum of cosmic rays.”
Stone has been with NASA’s Voyager project since the beginning, and he’s excited.
“This is a major milestone,” he said. “This will be the first spacecraft to enter interstellar space. We’ll know exactly how big this bubble is.”
There are estimates on the size of the bubble, which is described in one Associated Press report as a hot and turbulent area created by a stream of charged particles from the sun. Interstellar space begins somewhere from 11 billion to 14 billion miles from the sun.
So, here is my point: human beings who have absorbed knowledge up to the time before computers were able to design a spacecraft that has survived more extreme conditions than we as living beings could imagine. This craft has traveled our solar system for 35 years, and will continue to transmit information for the foreseeable future.
Great societies who plan and execute projects on this level do not exist when their inhabitants spend all their time worrying about their tax bills, which are about 50% of what they were when I started paying taxes in 1970.
I built a house in 1971. My property tax bill was $1,200 per year. I could afford to pay $100 a month. I knew that my children could attend our community elementary school. I knew that if my children were smart and studious, that they could go to college even if I couldn’t pay for all of their expenses.
Our parents and grandparents paid reasonable taxes with little complaint. They knew the value of collective action. They knew that governments could not be run like businesses if they were to support a thriving society.
And they knew this: Governments are accountable tyrants. Corporations are unaccountable tyrants.