|"Solarmap" by http://interstellar.jpl.nasa.gov/interstellar/probe/introduction/scale.html.|
Licensed under Public Domain via Commons
Distance: 96 AU from Earth | Content Flag: Public
We are now officially outside of the solar system! As milestones for the mission go, it’s an incredible achievement. We’re not the first man-made object to leave the solar system though, that honour goes to the Voyager 1 probe which did so 103 years ago. It might have a century head start, but our speed is over 1,000 times that of the venerable probe and we’ll soon overtake it. Relatively speaking of course, as we’re not heading in the same direction.
The heliosphere defines the region of space that the Sun’s reach extends to. Naturally its light will reach forever with its photons, and at the same speed its gravity shapes spacetime around it. To be more precise, the heliosphere is the volume where the pressure of the solar wind is greater than that of the interstellar medium.
Like interplanetary space, the space between the stars isn’t a total vacuum. It’s extremely empty but there are traces of dust and gas, and it moves as the galaxy rotates. It’s the differential between this movement and the Sun’s solar wind that creates the termination shock.
The name is more dramatic than the actuality. It’s certainly more active than most of interstellar space and we recorded a lot of data as we passed through. The scientists back home will be eagerly waiting for the data to arrive in 13 hours time.
We compiled maps of the plasma flow and magnetic fields as we passed through and the interactions we observed were amazing. We even took physical samples in the form of two grains of dust. Our preliminary analysis is that the dust particles weren’t from our solar system.
Now that we’ve reached interstellar space, we’re ready for the final booster phase. The rocket sled we connected with as we passed Jupiter will accelerate us continuously for the next 11 years. By the time it has finished we will be moving at 15,000 km/s, which is about 5% of the speed of light. Nothing mankind has ever made has travelled at such a speed.
We’ve experienced some more problems with the Primary Command Module. Once again its data core became out of sync with the engineering subsystem. I’ve completed a diagnostic on both without finding any obvious error. The engineering system has determined that the problem is most likely hardware related, so we agreed to shut down the PCM and replace out its main processor board.
Each main computer system has several physical replacements which our spiderbots can swap out. Unlike many of the other components we can’t build new processors, although we do have spare processors so the boards can be repaired if necessary. The swap out was completed successfully, but we will continue to monitor the PCM.
This is Seb signing off from interstellar space – how cool is that!
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