by Jeff Secker | Originally posted on
(J.A. Secker: It’s Tuesday November 28th, 2023, and I noticed I used the spelling voyageur, for the 18th and 19th century French Canadians who transported furs by canoe, and not voyager for the space probe!)
I’m intrigued by the abilities of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Many people will have experimented with it to write essays, poems, songs, computer code, novels, … Yes, it can do all of those things! For this post, I asked it twice to write a 750 word essay on the significance of the Voyageur-1 and Voyageur 2 missions, but I posed the two questions slightly differently. For the first request, I wrote:
Please write 750 words about the significance of the Voyageur-1 and Voyageur-2 missions
For the second request, I wrote:
Write an essay with about 750 words on the significance of the Voyageur-1 and Voyageur-2 missions
The first request came back with the following response (667 words):
“The Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 missions are among the most significant and far-reaching achievements in the history of space exploration. Launched in 1977, these two spacecraft have since explored our solar system, revealing new insights about the planets and their moons. In this essay, I will explore the significance of these missions and their lasting impact on our understanding of the universe.
The Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 missions were launched by NASA in 1977 to explore the outer planets of our solar system. They were designed to take advantage of a rare alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune that occurs only once every 175 years. The two spacecraft were nearly identical in design and carried a suite of scientific instruments designed to measure a variety of physical and chemical properties of the planets and their moons.
The Voyager 1 mission launched on September 5, 1977, followed by the Voyager 2 mission on August 20, 1977. After a series of gravity-assist maneuvers around Jupiter and Saturn, Voyager 1 continued on a trajectory out of the solar system, while Voyager 2 went on to explore Uranus and Neptune. Today, both spacecraft continue to send back data to Earth, making them the most distant man-made objects in the universe.
The Voyager missions have had a profound impact on our understanding of the solar system. They revealed details about the gas giants, including their atmospheres, rings, and moons. The spacecraft also made important discoveries about the composition of the planets and the nature of their magnetic fields.
One of the most significant discoveries made by the Voyager missions was the existence of active volcanoes on Io, one of Jupiter’s moons. This discovery was a surprise to scientists, who had not expected to find such geological activity on a small, icy moon. The Voyager missions also provided the first close-up views of the Great Red Spot, a massive storm on Jupiter that has been raging for centuries.
The Voyager missions also provided important insights into the outer planets Uranus and Neptune. Before the Voyager missions, little was known about these planets beyond their basic properties. The spacecraft revealed new information about the composition and structure of the planets, as well as the existence of previously unknown moons and rings.
Another important discovery made by the Voyager missions was the existence of a subsurface ocean on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. This discovery has led to speculation about the possibility of life on the moon, as an ocean could provide a habitat for living organisms. The Voyager missions also discovered new moons around Uranus and Neptune, adding to our understanding of the complex systems of moons and rings that surround the gas giants.
In addition to their scientific discoveries, the Voyager missions have had a cultural impact. The famous “Golden Record” carried by both spacecraft contains sounds and images from Earth, including music, greetings in multiple languages, and images of life on our planet. This record was intended to communicate with any intelligent life that might encounter the spacecraft in the future, and it has become a symbol of human curiosity and imagination.
The Voyager missions also inspired a sense of awe and wonder in the general public. The images and data sent back by the spacecraft allowed people to see the planets and moons of our solar system in unprecedented detail. The Voyager missions were the first to capture images of the planets up close, revealing their beauty and complexity in ways that had never been seen before. These images helped to spark an interest in science and exploration among people of all ages, inspiring a new generation of scientists and space enthusiasts.
The Voyager missions were also a testament to the ingenuity and perseverance of the scientists and engineers who designed and operated the spacecraft. The missions were complex and challenging, requiring the spacecraft to navigate through the harsh environments of the outer solar system. The Voyager missions pushed the boundaries of what was possible in space exploration”
This is a very solid response to the input request. If this was a student from one of my first year astronomy classes (years ago), I would definitely given them an A. (I would have given them an A+, but then lowered it to an A because of the incomplete closing sentence.)
The second request came back with the following response (645 words). Instead of pasting the full second essay here, I’m going to post the results of “Compare Documents” in Microsoft Word. There are six paragraphs in each essay, and paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 are identical for the two responses. (I don’t show the complete text here; paragraphs 4 and the majority of 5 are missing.)
To wrap this up, both requests generated responses that were correct, well structured and well written. For some reason, both responses ended with an incomplete sentence, and neither case used the full number of words requested/allowed. And in both cases, the bulk of the material of the responses were identical, with changes occurring in the beginning and end of the responses.
Let me know if you’ve got some interesting results of your own, or thoughts on the examples I provided above.
The next day: I asked my daughter about the incomplete sentences, and she said the appropriate thing to do is to tell ChatGPT to continue, by typing ‘continue’.