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NASA’s Voyager 1 sending readable data back to Earth for 1st time in 5 months

todayApril 24, 2024

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NASA Voyager 1 concept depiction. Via NASA

(NEW YORK) — After more than five months without contact, NASA has finally reconnected with Voyager 1, the farthest spacecraft from Earth.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) said Voyager 1 had not been sending readable data back to Earth since Nov. 14, 2023, despite the spacecraft still receiving mission controller commands.

In December 2023, the JPL announced the problem was with one of Voyager 1’s onboard computers called the flight data subsystem (FDS). Engineers attempted to restart the computer, but the problem persisted, NASA said.

However, the JPL announced this week that Voyager 1 had resumed sending engineering updates to Earth.

Engineers pinpointed the problem earlier this month, NASA said: A chip responsible for storing part of the computer’s memory had become corrupted, making the data unreadable. The team was unable to repair the chip and decided the affected code needed to be stored elsewhere in the FDS memory, but no single location was large enough to do so, the JPL said in a release Monday.

The team “devised a plan to divide the affected code into sections and store those sections in different places in the FDS,” the release read. “To make this plan work, they also needed to adjust those code sections to ensure, for example, that they all still function as a whole.”

The code that packages Voyager 1’s engineering data was the first to be sent to its new location on April 18. The JPL said it takes 22.5 hours for a radio signal to reach Voyager 1 and another 22.5 hours for the signal to come back to Earth. When the team heard from Voyager 1 on April 20, they knew the fix was a success, the JPL said.

“Hi, it’s me. – V1,” the X account for Voyager 1 posted on Monday afternoon.

Over the next few weeks, more portions of the FDS software will be relocated and the team will work to enable the spacecraft to begin returning science data again, the JPL said.

Voyager 1 was launched in September 1977 under the Voyager program to study the farther planets of the solar system and interstellar space. Voyager 1 entered interstellar space in 2012 becoming the first man-made object to exit the solar system.

Meanwhile, its twin spacecraft, Voyager 2, continues to “operate normally,” according to the JPL. It reached interstellar space in 2018 and is the second-farthest spacecraft from Earth.

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