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

The Voyager 1 spacecraft has sent a new signal containing valuable data, which may save the aging probe. Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are currently looking for inconsistencies in the message in order to figure out why the spacecraft — the furthest piece of human technology from Earth — has been speaking incomprehensibly 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). Although it was not in the format that Voyager 1 regularly uses when the spacecraft is operating normally, it was still different from the stream of unreadable data that the mission had been transmitting ever since. It developed a strange bug in November 2023.

The mission team was initially confused by the new message, but an engineer at NASA's Deep Space Network, the radio antennas the space agency uses to communicate with its deep space missions, decoded the signal and found it contained a readout of NASA's entire FDS memory. books In blog update.

“The FDS memory includes its own code, or instructions for what to do, as well as 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 sent this data in response to the team sending a “poke” to the spacecraft's data system on March 1, or a command that gently nudges FDS “to try different sequences in its software package in case the problem can be resolved by navigating a damaged section,” according to the agency. NASA.

See also  Antarctic sea ice at 'astonishing' low warning experts

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

The Voyager 1 team suspects that the ongoing anomaly may have something to do with the FDS and TMU's problem communicating with each other. As a result, the TMU was sending data to Mission Control in a recurring pattern of ones and zeros.

For months, things looked bleak for the Voyager 1 mission, which has been scouring the universe for more than 46 years. However, with the new signal, the team may be able to pinpoint the exact source of the bug by comparing this memory read with a previous read to look for inconsistencies in the code.

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

Voyager 1 currently 15.14 billion miles (24.4 billion kilometers), and flies at 38,000 miles per hour (61,155 kilometers per hour). Because of this vast distance, it takes about two days to send a message and receive a response from the spacecraft. So, NASA is asking us to be patient as it works to solve the problem with its famous mission.

“The team is analyzing the readings,” the space agency wrote. “Using this information to come up with a potential solution and try to put it into practice will take time.”

See also  A hidden world beneath our feet

For more space travel in your life, follow us X (formerly Twitter) and custom bookmark Gizmodo Spaceflight page.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *