Saturday, December 02, 2017


I once had a '75 Ford Granada coupe that I was trying to kill. Well, not "kill", per se, but I had resolved to not interfere with its process of dying.

The transmission, a three-speed slushbox, had started slipping dramatically pulling away from stoplights and I just didn't feel like dumping any more money into a high-mileage car that I'd paid a couple hundred dollars for.

When I moved in with a boyfriend back in the early '90s, the car sat, parked and unloved, out front while I drove his spare car. I hadn't changed the Granada's oil or done a lick of maintenance to the thing for probably six months before I parked it.

When I moved out and needed some spare dough, I sold the car to his neighbor across the street for exactly what I had bought it for. I assumed the old guy would need help pushing it into his driveway. Instead, I handed him the key, he hopped in, and that old 250c.i.d. straight six turned right over, caught on the first try, and the car lurched right into its new home with only the normal amount of groaning and clunking.

Thirteen billion miles from Earth is another piece of human machinery of about the same vintage as that '75 Ford. This one is a '77 JPL, and NASA scientists recently wanted to reorient it so the big antenna would point back toward Earth. Unfortunately the maneuvering jets on Voyager 1 have seen a lot of use and are pretty worn out.

They had another option though: V'ger has a set of rockets on its backside called Trajectory Correction Maneuver thrusters. The only problem was that the TCM's hadn't been run in...oh, over thirty times as long as my Granada sat parked in front of my ex's place. Further, as bad as the near south side of Atlanta can be, the environment out past the heliopause is even harsher.

Nevertheless, when they went to start up those hydrazine rocket motors that had sat dormant since I was in middle school, they cranked right up on the first try and the Voyager 1 spacecraft groaned and clunked and lurched right into its new orientation. (Or it would have groaned and clunked if there was atmosphere for sound to travel through and it had a slipping Ford C4 gearbox.)