NASA Voyager 1 It continues its journey outside our solar system, 45 years after its launch. But now, the veteran spacecraft is sending out strange data, baffling its engineers.
NASA He said on Wednesday that while the probe is still working properly, the readings from the Expression and Attitude Control System – AACS for short – do not appear to match the spacecraft’s movements and direction, indicating that the craft is confused about its position in space.
AACS is essential for Voyager to transmit NASA data about its surrounding interstellar environment as it keeps the craft’s antenna pointing toward our planet.
“The spacecraft is approximately 45 years old, which is far beyond what mission planners expected.”
NASA said Voyager 1’s twin, the Voyager 2 probe, is behaving normally.
Launched in 1977 To explore the outer planets in our solar system, Voyager 1 has been operating for a long time and continues to send information about its flights back to Earth. The pioneer spacecraft left our solar system and Entered interstellar space in 2012. It’s now 14.5 billion miles from Earth, making it the farthest man-made object.
From what its engineers can tell, NASA said, Voyager 1’s AACS system is sending randomly generated data that does not “reflect what is actually happening on board.”
But even if the system data indicates otherwise, the spacecraft’s antenna appears to be aligned correctly — it receives and executes commands from NASA and sends the data back to Earth. So far, she said, the system problem has not prompted the old spacecraft to enter “safe mode,” during which it only performs basic operations.
“Until the nature of the problem is better understood, the team cannot predict whether this might affect how long the spacecraft can collect and transmit scientific data,” NASA said.
Dodd and her team hope to find out what’s causing a bot messenger from Earth to send unwanted data.
“There are some big challenges for the engineering team,” Dodd said.
A major one: Light takes 20 hours and 33 minutes to reach Voyager’s current interstellar position, so a round trip message between the space agency and Voyager takes two days.
“But I think if there is a way to solve this problem with AACS, our team will find it,” Dodd added.
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