The most distant ambassador of human civilisation, the Voyager probes, turn thirty. Wired has an excellent image set covering schematics and planetary imagery. I think we need more programmes like these. More on the Voyagers here.
Indeed, it would have been nice if the Space Exploration budget was not as tightly tied to Cold War politics in the U.S. However, the Star Wars (SDI) programme in the ’80s was not a US Space Exploration programme. It was a DOD programme and as such funded by defence money. The Space Shuttle was the primary Space Exploration programme at the time.
As with the Apollo programme, both hardware and software was ahead of its time. It’s a shame that the truly inspiring concept of a reusable vehicle (the Space Shuttle) turned out to be such a mediocre implementation and NASA ended up reverting to the anachronistic capsule-type craft (Orion) as its replacement. Also, another fine detail: the disc in Voyager was not golden. It was made of copper and was gold-plated. It is a excellent example of the idealism — or romanticism if you prefer — of the programme.
With the U.S. being past their prime as a world superpower and heavily in debt, I’m afraid we will probably have to wait for China or India to step up their efforts before we’ll be able to witness the next generation of space exploration programmes. Hopefully, we’ll both still be alive and well when this happens :)
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