NASA’s Voyager 1 probe surprises with mysterious problems

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(CNN)– The Voyager 1 probe is still exploring interstellar space 45 years after it was dispersed, but ran into a problem that confused the spacecraft team on Earth.

Voyager 1 continues to perform well despite its peak lifespan and 23.3 billion km distance from Earth. And it receives and executes commands sent by NASA and collects and sends scientific data.

But the readings from the articulation control system and layout that monitors the spacecraft’s orientation in space don’t match what Voyager is actually doing. The Aiming and Articulation Control System (AACS) ensures that the spacecraft’s performance-enhancing antenna remains pointed at Earth so that Voyager can transmit data to NASA.

Given Voyager’s interstellar location, it takes 20 hours and 33 minutes for the light to hallucinate, so a call-and-message response between NASA and Voyager takes two days.

So far, the Voyager team thinks the AACS is still working, but the data read from the tool seems to be random or impossible. So far, this system glitch hasn’t prompted anyone to put the spacecraft into “safe mode.” Only essential operations will continue to allow engineers to diagnose a problem that would endanger the spacecraft.

But Voyager’s signal is stronger than ever, meaning the antenna is still pointed at Earth. The team is trying to determine if this incorrect data comes directly from this tool or from another system.

“Until we better understand the nature of the problem, the team cannot predict whether it could affect how long the spacecraft will be able to digest and transmit science data,” NASA said in a statement. communicated.

“Such intrigues are commonplace at this point in the Voyager delegation,” Suzanne Dodd, thesis regent for Voyager 1 and 2 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement.

“The spacecraft is almost 45 years old, which far exceeds the expectations of the delegation planners. We are still in interstellar space, an environment incorporating radiation where no spacecraft has ever flown before. There are big challenges for the engineering team, but I think if there is a way to solve this problem with AACS, our team will find it.

If the team doesn’t identify the root cause of the issue, they can just adapt, Dodd said. Or if they can find it, the problem can be solved by modifying the software or relying on a redundant hardware system.

Voyager already relies on backup security systems to keep it running for as long as possible. In 2017, the probe fired thrusters previously used in its first planetary encounters in the 1970s, and they’re still working after 37 years out of fashion.

Aging probes produce very little electricity each year, so subsystems and heaters have faded over the years to keep critical systems and scientific instruments running.

Voyager 2, a sister probe, continues to perform well in interstellar space, 20 billion kilometers from Earth. For comparison, Neptune, the furthest planet from Earth, is at most 4.667 million kilometers away. Both probes were launched in 1977 and far exceeded their different purpose of navigating the planet.

They are now the only two spacecraft to collect data from interstellar space and provide information about the heliosphere, or the sun-generated bubble that extends beyond the planets of our solar system.

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