The Voyager 1 spacecraft was launched from Earth in September 1977 and is now around 23.5 billion kilometers (or 14.6 billion miles) from home and counting. But despite this stunning distance, NASA scientists have just completed a repair on the spacecraft.
Since MayVoyager 1 has been sending back garbled information from its Attitude Articulation and Control System (AACS), which is the part of the probe that ensures its antenna is pointed at Earth.
Although the rest of the probe continued to behave normally, the information sent back about their health and activities made no sense. A change in the way data is sent back from Voyager 1 has now resolved the issue.
“We’re glad to have telemetry back,” says Suzanne DoddVoyager project manager at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
Scientists were able to figure out that the spacecraft had started transmitting data through an onboard computer that was known to have stopped working years ago. The NASA team ordered Voyager 1 to switch back to the correct computer for communications.
What we don’t yet know is why Voyager 1 decided to change the way it sends data back to its home planet. The most likely explanation is an erroneous command generated from somewhere else in the probe’s electronic systems.
This in turn indicates that there is another problem somewhere else, otherwise the computer switch would never have happened. However, the Voyager 1 team is confident that the spacecraft’s long-term health is not at risk.
“We’re going to do a full memory scan of the AACS and look at everything it’s been doing.” says Dodd. “This will help us diagnose the problem that caused the telemetry issue in the first place.”
Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 (which actually launched a month earlier than its twin) have traveled so far in 45 years that they are both now past the point known as the heliopausewhere the sun’s solar winds are no longer felt and is officially considered outer space interstellar.
Although at this point Voyager 1 has shut down some of its systems and lost some functionality, and Voyager 2 also needs troubleshooting, both probes continue to report back to Earth – although a message can take around two days to travel the required distance.
The spacecraft has returned close-up images JupiterSaturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, and have continued to record and analyze them in recent years the weird and wonderful experiences You have out in space.
Voyager 1 didn’t trigger its “Safe Mode” routine, indicating it didn’t see anything wrong, and the spacecraft’s signal didn’t fade. If everything is in order, it can continue to report for many years to come.
“We’re cautiously optimistic, but we have more research ahead of us,” says Dodd.
You can follow the study on the Voyager mission status Website.