NASA is still fighting to save its historic Voyager 1 spacecraft

For more than 45 years, the Voyager 1 spacecraft has traveled through space, crossing the boundary of our solar system and becoming the first man-made object to enter interstellar space. Iconic in every respect, Voyager 1 delivered and captured amazing data on Jupiter and Saturn. A lonely image of Earth. But nothing is lonelier than an aging spacecraft that has lost its ability to communicate while traveling billions of miles from home.

NASA's Voyager 1 has been down for months. Sending nonsense data to ground control. Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have been trying to solve the problem, but given how far away the spacecraft is now, the process is too slow. Things look very bleak for the aging mission, which may be nearing the end. Still, NASA isn't ready to release its most distant spacecraft just yet.

„The team continues to gather information and is preparing some steps that they believe will lead to a path to understanding the source of the problem and/or resolving it,” a JBL spokesperson told Gizmodo in an email.

This anomaly may have something to do with the spacecraft's Flight Data System (FDS). FDS collects data from Voyager's science instruments and engineering data about the spacecraft's health and combines them into a package sent to Earth by the Telemetry Modulation Unit (TMU) in binary code.

However, FDS and TMU may have problem communicating with each other. As a result, the TMU sends data to mission control in a continuous format of ones and zeros.

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The problem first started in May 2022 when the probe suddenly started sending out Nonsensical Attitude Exposure and Control (AACS) data. Engineers solved the problem by sending telemetry data through one of the spacecraft's other computers. In December 2023, Voyager 1 began to chatter again.

Voyager 1 is currently 15.14 billion miles away (24.4 billion kilometers), flying through interstellar space at a speed of 38,000 miles per hour (23,612 kilometers per hour). Because of Voyager 1's long distance, it took JBL engineers about two days to send a signal to the spacecraft and receive a response (22 hours each way).

„After they do that, they spend a few days digesting the information they've received, consult old documents and see if they can decipher what little information they can glean from things (since telemetry data is unusable), then send another command (that tries to change something on the spacecraft or provides additional information. ),” said a JPL spokesperson. “It's going to take a week, which is why it's so slow.”

Voyager 1 launched in 1977, less than a month after its twin probe Voyager 2 began its own journey into space. But because it was on a fast track, Voyager 1 left the asteroid belt ahead of its twin, making close encounters with Jupiter and Saturn, where it discovered two Jovian moons, Thebes and Metis, as well as five new moons and a new ring called G. – Ring, around Saturn. Voyager entered interstellar space on 1 August 2012, becoming the first spacecraft to cross the boundary of our solar system.

As they travel far from home, each Voyager probe carries a message from Earth. Although this may be the last we hear from Voyager 1, the probe has accomplished quite a mission and will be remembered forever.

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