NASA says that the return of the probe to life will be comparable to a miracle, reports Gizmodo.
Problems arose with the flight data system (FDS), which is linked to one of the 46-year-old craft’s three on-board computers. The FDS is responsible for collecting data from Voyager 1’s scientific instruments, as well as information about the overall health of the vehicle.
This system no longer communicates properly with the telemetry modulation unit, which receives the data collected by the FDS system and sends it back to Earth.
And this is just the latest in a series of problems with the aging Voyager 1, which was launched from Earth in 1977, immediately after its twin Voyager 2.
Back in May 2022, the Voyager 1 probe began sending meaningless position determination and control (AACS) data to Earth. Then the head of the mission, Suzanne Dodd, called the glitch as “a normal occurrence at this stage.”
It later turned out that the data was transmitted by a faulty probe computer, so on Earth they were perceived as gibberish. The project engineers managed to solve the problem by sending telemetry through another computer on the device. Three months have passed since the problem arose and its solution, during which time the device covered 161 million km.
Then, in December 2023, Voyager 1 again began sending unintelligible data to Earth . The telemetry modulation unit began sending binary code to Earth, which indicated that a failure had occurred again.
The NASA team suggests that this time too the problem lies in the FDS, where the incorrect data is coming from. Scientists tried to solve the problem by rebooting the FDS, but the plan didn’t work. The device continues to transmit strange messages to Earth.
“If we bring the device back to life, it will be the greatest miracle. We are definitely not going to give up. If there are other methods we can try. But what happened is certainly the most serious breakdown since I became the project manager,” Dodd emphasizes.
Voyager 1 is located at a distance of 24,365,306,285 km from Earth and continues its journey at a speed of 61 thousand km/h.
“We can talk to the spacecraft and it can hear us, but this is a slow process given the incredible distance it is from Earth,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said.
Each message from Earth takes 22.5 hours to reach the probe, and vice versa.
The Voyager missions are already 50 years old. Even decades ago, devices brilliantly coped with their main tasks, so all subsequent years are a bonus.
When the moment comes and both devices finally fail, they will continue to fly through space, but will no longer be able to collect data.