The engineering staff working the Voyager 1 spacecraft — NASA’s robotic planetary explorer at present zooming by interstellar area — is making an attempt to determine why the spacecraft is sending again knowledge readouts that don’t match what the car is definitely doing. It’s a thriller that doesn’t appear to be placing the Voyager 1 spacecraft in any fast jeopardy, however NASA is making an attempt to determine it out nonetheless.
Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 has been exploring the cosmos for almost half a century. It has a twin, Voyager 2, that was launched 16 days prior in the identical 12 months. Each spacecraft did excursions of the outer Photo voltaic System, flying by planets and photographing moons earlier than ultimately touring exterior the boundary of our cosmic neighborhood. In 2012, Voyager 1 handed the heliopause — the boundary the place the Solar’s photo voltaic wind ends and the interstellar medium begins. At a distance of 14.5 billion miles from Earth, Voyager 1 is the farthest human-made object in area.
However the farther Voyager 1 will get from Earth, the probability for bizarre issues to occur with the spacecraft goes up. Proper now, the spacecraft’s angle articulation and management system, or AACS, is performing up. It’s the system that’s liable for sustaining the car’s orientation in area in addition to pointing the probe’s high-gain antenna, which is used to ship and obtain indicators from Earth. The AACS continues to be working because it ought to so far as the engineers can inform. However it’s returning knowledge that doesn’t precisely describe what the system is doing, based on NASA. “For example, the info could look like randomly generated, or doesn’t mirror any potential state the AACS may very well be in,” NASA wrote in a press launch.
Voyager 1 nonetheless appears okay in all different respects. It’s in communication with the engineering staff and it’s amassing science knowledge because it’s purported to, NASA says. And the AACS concern hasn’t prompted the spacecraft to enter secure mode, a kind of working process wherein the spacecraft powers down most of its devices and solely focuses on its most important capabilities to remain alive.
So, mainly, the staff is forging forward whereas making an attempt to determine what’s happening within the meantime. “A thriller like that is kind of par for the course at this stage of the Voyager mission,” Suzanne Dodd, undertaking supervisor for Voyager 1 and a couple of at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, stated in a press release. “The spacecraft are each virtually 45 years outdated, which is way past what the mission planners anticipated. We’re additionally in interstellar area – a high-radiation surroundings that no spacecraft have flown in earlier than.”
A repair might come within the type of a software program patch. Or the Voyager 1 staff could study to deal with it. Adapting is a lifestyle for the Voyager groups. The ability on each Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 is diminishing over time because the nuclear batteries that hold the spacecraft working are slowly decaying. The groups have already needed to flip numerous techniques off on the spacecraft — however by some means the science devices are nonetheless working, even in spite of everything this time.