NASA engineers now know why it was sending gibberish of data

Voyager 1 had us worried. The probe was sending back strange data that didn’t reflect what was happening on board, and that was a major problem. Above all, because it is so far that it takes two days to get a response to requests made from Earth. Fortunately the problem seems solved.

What happened. Months ago, NASA engineers detected that the Attitude Articulation and Control System (AACS) —responsible for controlling the orientation of the spacecraft and for having its communication antenna correctly oriented— began to send invalid telemetry data. That gibberish seemed to indicate that Voyager 1 had gone a little crazy: the data seemed randomly generated.

we already know why. NASA engineers discovered the source of the problem: the AACS had started sending the telemetry data through a small computer that had been known to stop working years ago, and that component was corrupting the telemetry information being sent.

A simple solution. Suzanne Dodd, the current mission manager, explained that when they realized that this seemed to be the problem, they opted for a low-risk solution: order AACS to continue sending data to the correct computer, and not the one that had stopped working.

But NASA is still fly. Although the data is received correctly again, NASA does not know why the AACS began to operate in the wrong way. They suspect that there is some other problem in the ship, and for this reason they will continue to analyze in detail the status of all the components. Still, there is believed to be no threat to Voyager 1’s long-term health.

The Voyager probes are getting older. Both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 carry exploring our solar system the last 45 years. Both are currently in interstellar space, the region beyond the heliopause, that bubble of energy particles and magnetic fields generated by the sun. It’s amazing what these technological wonders have achieved, although NASA knows that little by little they will go off.

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