The 45-year-old Voyager 1 spacecraft is a marvel. It sails outside our solar system and is still in contact with Earth. But she presented her team with what NASA calls a “puzzle.” It works normally but sends some odd telemetry data.
The problem likely stems from the Voyager 1 Expression and Attitude Control System (AACS), which deals with its orientation in space, including the task of keeping the antenna pointed toward Earth.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said, “All signs are that AACS is still working, but the telemetry data you return is invalid. For example, the data may appear to be randomly generated, or not reflect any possible state that could be.” by AACS”. In a statement Wednesday.
The The data does not make sensebut Voyager 1 maintains a clear line of communication with the house and the problem did not create a preemptive “safe mode”.
The twin spacecraft Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 It was launched in the 1970s and has lasted much longer than its expected life. Both are in interstellar space, which Voyager 1 and 2 project manager Susan Dodd described as a “highly radioactive environment no spacecraft has ever flown into.”
Voyager 1 is approximately 14.5 billion miles (23.3 billion kilometers) from home. It takes a few days to send a signal and then listen again, adding to the challenge of understanding what’s going on. This leaves NASA with a lot of unknowns. Is AACS the culprit or is another system malfunctioning? Will Voyager 1 be able to continue its science mission?
There are ways to move forward from this flaw. Voyager 1 may live with it. Or the solution might be to repair the software or switch to backup hardware. NASA hopes that both Voyagers will continue to transmit scientific data beyond 2025.
“A puzzle like this is a bit like the course at this point in the Voyager mission,” Dodd said.
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