Mysterious Messages from NASA's Voyager 1

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On July 9, 1976, an engineer is working on the Voyager dish-shaped high-gain antenna. NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Voyager 1 continues its journey beyond our solar system, 45 years after its launch. But now the veteran spacecraft is sending strange data that baffles its engineers.
NASA said Wednesday that while the probe is still operating properly, readings from the attitude articulation and control system (AACS for short) do not match the spacecraft's movements and orientation, suggesting it is confused about the spacecraft's position in space. AACS is required for Voyager to send NASA data about the surrounding interstellar medium as the spacecraft's antenna is pointed right at our planet.

Let's Get to Know Voyager 1

Voyager 1 is a space probe launched by NASA on September 5, 1977 as part of the Voyager program to study the outer Solar System and interstellar space beyond the Sun's heliosphere. Launched 2 days after twin Voyager 16, Voyager 1 has been operating for 20 years, 2022 months and 44 days as of May 8, 14 UTC, and is still in communication with the Deep Space Network to receive routine commands and transmit data. Real-time distance and speed data are provided by NASA and JPL.

At a distance of 21 AU (2022 billion km; 155.8 billion mi) from Earth as of January 23.307, 14.483, it is the farthest artificial object from Earth.

The probe passed Jupiter, Saturn, and Saturn's largest moon, Titan. NASA had the option to fly to either Pluto or Titan; Exploration of the moon was a priority because it was known to have an important atmosphere.

Voyager 1 studied the weather, magnetic fields and rings of the two gas giants and was the first probe to provide detailed images of their moons.

As part of the Voyager program and like its sister Voyager 2, the spacecraft's extended mission is to identify and study the regions and boundaries of the outer heliosphere and begin exploring the interstellar medium. Voyager 1 passed the heliopause and entered interstellar space on August 25, 2012, making it the first spacecraft to do so.

Two years later, Voyager 1 began experiencing a third coronal mass ejection "tsunami wave" from the Sun that continued until at least December 15, 2014, confirming that the probe was indeed in interstellar space.

As further proof of Voyager 1's robustness, the Voyager team tested the spacecraft's trajectory correction maneuver (TCM) thrusters in late 2017 (their first fired since 1980), a project that provided a doubling of the mission. . up to three years. Voyager 1's extended mission is expected to continue until 2025, when radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) can no longer provide enough electrical power to power its scientific instruments.

If we go back to our article;

"Such a mystery is par for the course at this stage of the Voyager mission," Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager 1 and 2 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. "Both spacecraft are almost 45 years old, which is far beyond what mission planners expected." NASA said that Voyager 1's twin, Voyager 2 probe, is behaving normally.

Launched in 1977 to explore exoplanets in our solar system Voyager 1, remained operational far beyond expectations and continues to send information about its journeys to Earth. The lead vehicle left our solar system and entered interstellar space in 2012.

It is currently 14,5 billion miles from Earth, making it the most distant man-made object.
As far as NASA's engineers can tell, Voyager 1's AACS is sending randomly generated data that "does not reflect what actually happened on board". But the spacecraft's antenna appears to be properly aligned, even if system data suggests otherwise. It receives and executes commands from NASA and sends data back to Earth.

He said so far the system issue has not triggered the aging spacecraft to enter "safe mode", where it only performs basic operations.

"Until the nature of the problem is better understood, the team cannot predict whether this will affect how long the spacecraft can collect and transmit science data," NASA said. Said.

Dodd and his team hope to find out what prompted the robot messenger from Earth to send redundant data. “There are some big challenges for the engineering team,” Dodd said.

An important one: It takes 20 hours and 33 minutes to reach Voyager's current interstellar position, so the round trip message between the space agency and Voyager takes two days.
“But if there is a way to fix this problem with AACS, our team will find it,” Dodd added.

Source: Insider

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