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PI's Perspective: What if Voyager had explored Pluto?
Planet X
post Jun 24 2014, 07:53 PM
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Check out this latest PI's perspective. It is a very interesting read. I will be pointing out a similar and even more interesting concept later on. Stay tuned!

J P
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algorithm
post Jun 25 2014, 10:54 AM
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It would have been great to know more about Pluto already, but the ammount of info gathered by New Horizons will be larger even if returned slower.
The greatest benefit imho is that the 'target audience' will be immeasurably larger. Technology marches on and with the advent of the internet and the explosion in home computing and mobile communications the new insights really will be for the whole of humanity, rather than a select few.
Plus science can do a lot more with any data received now than it could have done in the 1980's, what with a better general understanding and of couse computer modelling and such like.
So in the end it probably was for the best that Voyager did not visit Pluto at that time.
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jgoldader
post Jun 25 2014, 01:40 PM
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Nice article. I've wondered in the past if the Voyagers had passed close enough to any TNOs that observations might've been made, but of course they wouldn't have been discovered so it's a moot point. I suppose that since no odd Doppler shifts have ever been seen, about all we can say is that neither Voyager ever came close enough to any TNO to feel any measurable gravitational force. But one can imagine one of the Voyagers, cameras long ago switched off, passing silently a few hundred thousand km from a small TNO, and we might never have noticed.
Jeff
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jasedm
post Jun 25 2014, 02:41 PM
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This is an interesting subject, and one I have somewhat ambivalent feelings about.

Avoiding the political ifs and buts of budgets and costs etc, I remember being crushingly disappointed that V1 was commanded to perform a close Titan flyby at Saturn, thereby ruling out Pluto as the last target of the grand tour. Especially, as in terms of imagery V1 was returning dozens of frames of a fuzzy (if beautiful) orange sphere. Data gleaned from that flyby was probably invaluable however in helping to design Cassini's optical systems, thereby vastly improving the later mission for Cassini at Titan.

Voyager has a larger antenna and steerable scan platform plus a bigger power budget, so would have I'm sure performed a very creditable flyby of Pluto in 1986. Also, not being aware of the Kuiper belt may have tempted mission designers to opt for a riskier very low altitude flyby; with image smear compensated for by the scan platform yielding potentially some extremely high-resolution images.

However, we have NH to look forward to now! - testament to the vision and determination of those who pushed for the mission (Alan Stern chief among them) whose disappointment at the loss of a potential Pluto flyby in '86 was I'm sure as big as mine.

12 months doesn't seem long to wait now....








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Alan Stern
post Jun 25 2014, 04:35 PM
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QUOTE (jgoldader @ Jun 25 2014, 01:40 PM) *
Nice article. I've wondered in the past if the Voyagers had passed close enough to any TNOs that observations might've been made, but of course they wouldn't have been discovered so it's a moot point. I suppose that since no odd Doppler shifts have ever been seen, about all we can say is that neither Voyager ever came close enough to any TNO to feel any measurable gravitational force. But one can imagine one of the Voyagers, cameras long ago switched off, passing silently a few hundred thousand km from a small TNO, and we might never have noticed.
Jeff



We looked at that. Nothing closer than about 0.5 AU, among all known TNOs.
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Alan Stern
post Jun 25 2014, 04:51 PM
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QUOTE (jasedm @ Jun 25 2014, 03:41 PM) *
This is an interesting subject, and one I have somewhat ambivalent feelings about.

Avoiding the political ifs and buts of budgets and costs etc, I remember being crushingly disappointed that V1 was commanded to perform a close Titan flyby at Saturn, thereby ruling out Pluto as the last target of the grand tour. Especially, as in terms of imagery V1 was returning dozens of frames of a fuzzy (if beautiful) orange sphere. Data gleaned from that flyby was probably invaluable however in helping to design Cassini's optical systems, thereby vastly improving the later mission for Cassini at Titan.

Voyager has a larger antenna and steerable scan platform plus a bigger power budget, so would have I'm sure performed a very creditable flyby of Pluto in 1986. Also, not being aware of the Kuiper belt may have tempted mission designers to opt for a riskier very low altitude flyby; with image smear compensated for by the scan platform yielding potentially some extremely high-resolution images.

However, we have NH to look forward to now! - testament to the vision and determination of those who pushed for the mission (Alan Stern chief among them) whose disappointment at the loss of a potential Pluto flyby in '86 was I'm sure as big as mine.

12 months doesn't seem long to wait now....


The attached graphic by Alex Parker shows study results on C/As by Voyagers and Pioneers. Enjoy!
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tedstryk
post Jun 25 2014, 11:42 PM
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Pioneer 10 might have had a close approach, although this object (to my knowledge) has never been confirmed.


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Gsnorgathon
post Jun 26 2014, 12:28 AM
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QUOTE (Alan Stern @ Jun 25 2014, 09:51 AM) *
The attached graphic by Alex Parker shows study results on C/As by Voyagers and Pioneers. Enjoy!

Am I missing something? I'm not seeing an attached graphic (though I am a master at not seeing things - it's my super power, sort of like invisibility, but in reverse).
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Mongo
post Jun 26 2014, 03:28 AM
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To me, it comes down to if New Horizons would still have happened in substantially the same form after the Voyager 1 Pluto flyby.

If it still happens, then of course I would have been all for the V1 Pluto flyby. Most importantly for the substantial -- almost 3 decades -- time gap between flybys, with Pluto perihelion (1989) occurring between them. This would have been a unique chance to study changes in Pluto's atmosphere and surface between the two flybys.

If New Horizons never happens, then if I had to choose, I would take NH over V1, mainly for the improved sensor suite.
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Alan Stern
post Jun 26 2014, 12:06 PM
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QUOTE (Gsnorgathon @ Jun 26 2014, 12:28 AM) *
Am I missing something? I'm not seeing an attached graphic (though I am a master at not seeing things - it's my super power, sort of like invisibility, but in reverse).



Here's a second try on that uploaded figure from our study by New Horizons mission design. Alex Parker produced the figure itself.
Attached thumbnail(s)
Attached Image
 
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machi
post Jun 26 2014, 01:32 PM
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Thanks for this interesting image. I always wondered if there was some relatively close flyby in case of Pioneers and Voyagers.


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SFJCody
post Jun 26 2014, 05:21 PM
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Had we known about all the big TNOs we know of now back in 1980, I wonder if it would have been possible to design a Saturn flyby trajectory for Voyager 1 that would have taken it to a close flyby with a different dwarf planet without sacrificing the close pass of Titan. Perhaps the same thing could have been achieved with Voyager 2 and Neptune/Triton.
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Alan Stern
post Jun 26 2014, 11:56 PM
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QUOTE (SFJCody @ Jun 26 2014, 05:21 PM) *
Had we known about all the big TNOs we know of now back in 1980, I wonder if it would have been possible to design a Saturn flyby trajectory for Voyager 1 that would have taken it to a close flyby with a different dwarf planet without sacrificing the close pass of Titan. Perhaps the same thing could have been achieved with Voyager 2 and Neptune/Triton.



Interesting question. We looked at the same for our New Horizons 2 proposal to flyby Uranus then a big KBO. That was entirely feasible.

Same would have been true for the encounters you refer to, but as with NH2, the targeting to a big Charon-class) KBO would require optimizing both arrival date and B-plane coordinates. Getting to a 100-300 km class KBO would be much easier and still fascinating for a future giant planet mission, particularly if we get Pluto and a small KBO in the bag with NH. But as to Vgr, they never knew to even try...really too bad....though had they known, it might have squelched ever getting NH.

We'll never know.
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Eric H.
post Aug 27 2014, 06:38 AM
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I'm not too big on what if's, and it still amazes me on how much the Voyager's achieved and, remarkably, is still achieving! Am I right that Voyager 1 is in interstellar space? Too cool for words!!

As for NH, this is the perfect time for such a mission. Like Alan said, we're standing on the shoulders of giants. Ed Stone is the gold standard for the Voyager missions so whatever he says about Voyager is GOLD to me.

Same thing for NH, whatever Alan says is the absolute gold standard when it comes to Pluto and BEYOND!
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