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NASA probe in interstellar space: data from Voyager 1 are puzzling

NASA probe in interstellar space: data from Voyager 1 are puzzling
Written by insideindyhomes

Voyager 1, the most distant probe ever, is sending out data that doesn’t match what’s happening on board. NASA has made this public and has assured that the engineering team is trying to figure out what the puzzling behavior is all about. The probe flying in interstellar space works normally and executes commands received from Earth correctly, but the data from the on-board computer (“Attitude Articulation and Control System”) responsible for alignment and orbit control were incorrect. The team is faced with a mystery. In view of the age and the distance of the probe, however, such puzzling behavior is to be expected, after all it is the first to travel in interstellar space with the strong radiation.

Among other things, the AACS is responsible for precisely aligning Voyager 1’s large antenna so that the probe can communicate with Earth. Everything indicates that the system continues to do this work, but the telemetry data received on Earth is invalid, writes NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The probe is controlled from there. In some cases, it looks as if the data were randomly generated or as if they indicate a state in which the computer could not possibly be. Despite these errors, the anomaly did not cause Voyager 1 to automatically go into a sleep mode to protect the device and give the team on Earth time to diagnose. In addition, the received signal has not become weaker, so the antenna is still correctly aligned.

NASA will now continue to closely monitor how the data develops in order to find out, among other things, whether the error originates directly in the AACS or in a system involved in the production or transmission of the data. As long as the anomaly is not better understood, it is therefore not possible to say whether and to what extent it could affect how long the probe can continue to collect data and send it to Earth. It is also possible that the cause is not found at all and you will have to come to terms with it. Otherwise, software updates or a change to backup hardware are conceivable.

Voyager 1 was launched on September 5, 1977 and is already more than 23 billion kilometers away from us, which is almost 156 times as far as Earth is from the sun. On its way, it gained momentum on Jupiter and Saturn and has since been racing out of the solar system at almost 17 kilometers per second. The signals from the earth now take more than 21 hours to reach the probe. In 2012, Voyager 1 had reached interstellar space, and its sister probe Voyager 2 completed this milestone at the end of 2018. In 2017, Voyager 1 started its engines for the first time in 37 years in order to align its own antenna more precisely with the earth. Just last year, the probe proved that it is still doing valuable research.

earth and moon

In this image, the moon has been artificially brightened so it can be seen above bright Earth. (Image: NASA/JPL)


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