Voyager 1 sends data to NASA after months-long blackout — What happened to the 46-year-old spacecraft?

The most distant spacecraft from Earth had stopped sending understandable data last November due to a bad computer chip.

Livemint
First Published15 Jun 2024, 10:18 PM IST
This illustration provided by NASA depicts Voyager 1.
This illustration provided by NASA depicts Voyager 1. (AP)

46-year-old Voyager 1 resumed interactions with NASA this week after months of “incoherent” communication. The most distant spacecraft from Earth had stopped sending understandable data last November due to a bad computer chip. Flight controllers have since rearranged coding to work around the trouble, and efforts to restore transmission of the science data remains underway.

“Finally feeling more like me. Still can't believe the work my team is doing from 15 billion miles (24 billion km) away,” the Voyager 1 handle tweeted on Friday. 

The spacecraft had stopped sharing readable science and engineering data in mid-November last year even as it continued to receive commands and operate normally. Engineers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed in March that the issue was tied to one of the spacecraft’s three onboard computers — the flight data subsystem. The distant vehicle has now begun returning data from all four science instruments for the first time since November.

The four instruments in question study plasma waves, magnetic fields, and particles. 

ALSO READ: NASA's Starliner undocking: Sunita Williams' return to Earth from ISS set for THIS date

“While Voyager 1 is back to conducting science, additional minor work is needed to clean up the effects of the issue. Among other tasks, engineers will resynchronize timekeeping software in the spacecraft’s three onboard computers so they can execute commands at the right time. The team will also perform maintenance on the digital tape recorder, which records some data for the plasma wave instrument that is sent to Earth twice per year,” a press note from NASA explained.

Voyager 1 and its twin Voyager 2 (currently 20 billion kilometres away) are the only spacecrafts to directly sample interstellar space — the region outside the heliosphere or protective bubble of magnetic fields and solar wind created by the Sun. 

It takes 22 hours and a half to send a signal to Voyager 1 and the signal travel time is double that for a round trip. 

The spaceship was launched in 1977 to study Jupiter and Saturn, and began exploring the space between star systems in 2012. 

(With inputs from agencies)

 

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First Published:15 Jun 2024, 10:18 PM IST
HomeNewsworldVoyager 1 sends data to NASA after months-long blackout — What happened to the 46-year-old spacecraft?

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