Why NASA's Voyager mission almost didn't happen


Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/08/09/why-nasas-voyager-mission-al.html


“I was told, ‘This is impossible; stop wasting my time,’” Flandro recalled.

Hopefully he responded with something along the lines of “um, that’s what they said about going to the Moon…”


I wonder if people at NASA ever got tired of that zinger?


I hope not.


It actually was impossible. They had to fake it to prevent the Russian entente with Zeta Reticuli. And the fake Voyager mission? Don’t even get me started.

Does the name Kaspar Hauser ring a bell?



Gary Flandro! Back when I was an aerospace engineering student at Georgia Tech in the late 80s/early 90s, he was my orbital mechanics professor. Needless to say, he was a pretty good guy to learn orbital mechanics from. And he definitely told the story of the Grand Tour, together with a citation on the board in case anyone wanted to go look it up (by, of course, G. Flandro).


“What do orbital mechanics and comedy have in c…”


I enjoy stories where heroes, against all odds, make the impossible happen.

However, after years and years of trying to achieve goals which seemed difficult (but possible!), I whish I could get more headlines and stories about the immense support The Hero received, and the great teamwork. Stories of people who took a step back of their ego, who contributed that one thing which also made it possible to reach the impossible goal, and the countless people who also had their part in the big picture. Even if it was just one pixel (or grain on film).


Science, my friends. Voyager might be a sexy poster pinup, but I bet my whole ex-career as a scientist it was only possible because - forgive my paraphrasing - our giants were standing on the shoulders of countless colleagues (and some giants, granted).

But this story still makes me all jumpy and excited. I love it.


I think the movie “Hidden Figures” fits the bill.


Oh man, imagine if he’d had Kerbal…


True dat. Haven’t watched. Will do. I heard it is much better than the Cumbumberbatch-Turingtest.


They’re at retirement age, but still at their posts.




Oh wow. That is not only beautifully written, that is the most sad and most joyful thing I read for a long time.

Thank you for sharing this gem.
Nice money quote:
“For the foreseeable future, Voyager seems destined to remain in the running for the title of Mankind’s Greatest Journey, which might just make its nine flight-team engineers […] our greatest living explorers.”


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