NASA is no longer receiving signals from the Voyager 1 probe, which has left the solar system

By SSPDailyMar 14, 2024 13:04 PMTech
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NASA is no longer receiving signals from the Voyager 1
NASA is no longer receiving signals from the Voyager 1. Source: www.livescience.com

The Voyager 1 space probe, one of NASA's longest-running missions, has a problem with its communication system, and the mission control team fears it will never be able to reestablish contact with it again. SSPDaily tells about it.

This was reported on Thursday, February 15, by Live Science.

NASA specialists are working to fix a computer error that prevents the probe from transmitting data to Earth, but software limitations and the vast distance make this task very difficult.

The Voyager 1 interstellar probe last transmitted data obtained by its scientific instruments to Earth on November 14, 2023. It receives and executes commands from mission control in California, but cannot transmit data back to Earth.

The probe is currently traveling in interstellar space, more than 24 billion kilometers from Earth, outside the solar system.

"It would be the greatest miracle if we could reconnect," said Voyager mission coordinator Suzanne Dodd.

Since its launch on September 5, 1977, the Voyager 1 probe has been moving away from the Sun at a speed of approximately 17 km/s, and in 2012 it entered interstellar space, leaving the Solar System and becoming the first spacecraft to do so.

"Voyager 1 is currently the most distant human-made object in space.

The probe normally transmits data to Earth using its flight data system, one of three computers it has on board. But an apparent bug in one of its subsystems, the Telemetry Modulation Unit (TMU), resulted in endless strings of 0s being transmitted to Earth instead of the usual binary code of 0s and 1s.

Unfortunately, correcting this error proved to be a difficult task due to the distance from the probe. After sending the command, the flight control team must wait 45 hours before the probe can respond. And because the probe was designed and manufactured in the 1970s, most of the technology on board is outdated.

"The people who built this vehicle are no longer alive. They left us a pretty good set of instructions, but most of them are written on paper, so we're doing a kind of archaeological work, looking for documents," Dodd explained.

If NASA is unable to re-establish communication with Voyager 1, the agency will have one more interstellar probe. The twin probe, Voyager 2, left the solar system in 2018 and managed to maintain contact with Earth. In addition, at the end of the 2040s, another NASA probe, New Horizons, is also due to leave the solar system.

As a reminder, a NASA probe called Parker Solar Probe will attempt to touch the Sun on December 24, 2024. The total cost of such a station is $1.5 billion, and it is protected by a carbon fiber shell that can withstand high temperatures.

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