45 years after its launch, the Voyager 1 probe is still exploring interstellar space, but it has a problem that has confused the spacecraft team on Earth .
Voyager 1 is old and 14.5 billion miles (23.3 billion kilometers) away from Earth, but it’s still doing well. And it can receive and execute commands from NASA, as well as collect and send back scientific data. However, readings from the Attitude and Articulation Control System (AACS), which controls the spacecraft’s orientation in space, did not match Voyager 1’s actual data. AACS ensures that the probe’s high-gain antenna is always pointed at Earth so that Voyager 1 can send data to NASA.
Because of Voyager’s interstellar location, it takes 20 hours and 33 minutes to send a message to Earth, so the call and response of a message between NASA and Voyager 1 takes about two days.
So far, the Voyager 1 team believes that AACS is still working, but the telemetry it returns either appears to be randomly generated or does not appear to be credible.
According to a NASA press release, “Until the nature of the problem is better understood, the team cannot predict whether this will affect how long the spacecraft will be able to collect and transmit scientific data.”
The issue has yet to trigger any onboard failsafe systems that put the spacecraft into “safe mode.” The spacecraft in “safe mode” only performs basic operations so that engineers can diagnose problems it encounters.
Plus, Voyager 1’s signal is as strong as before, meaning the antenna is still pointed toward Earth. The team is working to determine whether this incorrect data comes directly from AACS itself, or from other systems involved in generating and sending telemetry data.
“Mysteries like this are in the Voyager space,” Suzanne Dodd, Voyager 1 and 2 project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. Mission phases are normal.”
Voyager 1 launched on September 5, 1977. It was the first man-made vehicle to leave the solar system and the farthest man-made vehicle ever to travel from Earth.
That same year, NASA also launched Voyager 1’s twin spacecraft, Voyager 2. The latter is continuing its smooth operation in interstellar space 12.1 billion miles (19.5 billion kilometers) from Earth. By comparison, Neptune, the farthest of the nine planets, is at most 2.9 billion miles away.
“Both spacecraft are almost 45 years old, which is way beyond the mission planners’ expectations. And we’re still in interstellar space – a high radiation environment that no spacecraft has flown before. So for the engineering team There are some huge challenges.”
Now, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are the only two spacecraft to collect data from interstellar space. They have gone far beyond their original purpose, which was to fly past planets.
(Transfer from The Epoch Times/Editor-in-charge: Ye Ping)
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