NASA’s 45-year-old Voyager 1 spacecraft is a marvel. It navigates outside our solar system and still remains in contact with Earth. But he presented his team with what NASA calls a “mystery.” It works normally but returns strange telemetry data.
The problem is likely related to Voyager 1’s Attitude and Articulation Control System (AACS), which manages its orientation in space, including the task of keeping its antenna pointed at Earth.
“All signs suggest that the AACS is still working, but the telemetry data it returns is invalid. For example, the data may appear randomly generated or may not reflect any possible state in which the AACS might be find,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab said. in a statement Wednesday.
The data doesn’t make sense, but Voyager 1 maintains a clear line of communication with home, and the issue didn’t trigger a protective “safe mode.”
The twin spacecraft Voyager 1 andlaunched in the 1970s and have long exceeded their expected lifespan. They are both in interstellar space, which Suzanne Dodd, Voyager 1 and 2 project manager, describes as a “high-radiation environment in which no spacecraft has flown before”.
Voyager 1 is about 14.5 billion miles (23.3 billion kilometers) from home. It takes a few days to send a signal and then hear, which adds to the challenge of understanding what is going on. That leaves NASA with a lot of unknowns. Is the AACS the culprit or is another system having a problem? Will Voyager 1 be able to continue its scientific mission?
There are ways to get out of this glitch. Voyager 1 can just live with it. Or a software patch or a switch to backup hardware could be the solution. NASA hopes the two Voyagers will continue to return scientific data beyond 2025.
Said Dodd, “A mystery like this is kind of par for the course at this point in the Voyager mission.”
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