NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft briefly reconnects, keeping hope alive for historic mission

The Voyager 1 spacecraft has sent a new signal containing valuable data that could save the aging probe. Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are currently looking for discrepancies in the messages to find out why the spacecraft – the furthest piece of human technology from Earth – has been gibbering for the past few months.

On March 3, the team behind the Voyager 1 mission received a promising signal from the spacecraft’s Flight Data System (FDS). While it’s not a format commonly used by the Voyager 1 spacecraft during normal operations, it’s still different from the unreadable data stream the mission has been transmitting since launch. Strange glitches in November 2023.

The mission team was initially confused by the new message, but an engineer with NASA’s Deep Space Network, the radio antenna the space agency uses to communicate with its deep space missions, decoded the signal and found it contained readings from the entire FDS memory, NASA wrote In blog update.

“FDS memory includes its code, or instructions to perform operations, and the variables or values ​​used in the code that can change based on commands or the state of the spacecraft,” the space agency said.

Voyager 1 transmitted this data in response to the team sending a “poke,” or gentle reminder, to the spacecraft data system on March 1 to “try different sequences in its software package in case the problem can be solved by bypassing it.” The command. According to NASA, this is a damaged section.

FDS collects data from Voyager’s science instruments, as well as engineering data about the health of the spacecraft, and combines them into a data package that is transmitted in binary code to the Telemetry Modulation Unit (TMU), one of the probe’s subsystems. Earth.

The Voyager 1 team suspects that the ongoing anomalies may be related to an inability to communicate between the FDS and TMU. Therefore, the TMU keeps sending data to mission control in a repeating pattern of ones and zeros.

For months, things have looked bleak for the Voyager 1 mission, which has been traveling the universe for more than 46 years. However, with the new signal, the team could look for differences in the code by comparing this memory reading to previous readings, pinpointing the exact source of the glitch.

Voyager 1 was launched in 1977, less than a month before its twin probe Voyager 2 began its own journey into space. The spacecraft ventured into interstellar space in August 2012, becoming the first spacecraft to leave the heliosphere.

Voyager 1 is currently 15.14 billion miles away (24.4 billion kilometers), flying at a speed of 38,000 miles (61,155 kilometers) per hour. Due to the vast distance, it took about two days to send the message and receive a reply from the spacecraft. So NASA is asking for our patience as it works to address this issue with its signature missions.

“The team is analyzing the readings,” the space agency wrote. “It takes time to use this information to design a potential solution and try to put it into practice.”

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