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Voyager-1 is in trouble: unable to send back any scientific data from interstellar space

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NASA's Voyager-1 spacecraft traveling outside the solar system has a problem. The spacecraft was unable to send any scientific data to Earth as it continued its journey outside the solar system.

In an update, NASA said engineers are still working to resolve the data issue on Voyager 1.

“We can talk to the spacecraft, and it can hear us, but it's a slow process given the incredible distance the spacecraft is from Earth,” JPL said. The spacecraft holds the record as the farthest man-made object ever.

The Voyager spacecraft sent to study exoplanets. (Image: NASA)

What's wrong with Voyager 1?

The problem lies in one of the three computers on board Voyager 1, called the Flight Data System (FDS). NASA said that it receives and implements orders sent from Earth.

However, the FDS does not communicate properly with one of the probe's subsystems, called the Telemetry Modulation Unit (TMU). This caused scientific operations to halt and no scientific or engineering data was transmitted to Earth.

According to NASA, the FDS is designed to collect data from scientific instruments as well as engineering data about the health and condition of the spacecraft. It then combines that information into a single data “packet” to be sent back to Earth by the TMU. Data is sent in the form of binary numbers of ones and zeros.

It holds a golden record with sounds and images that represent the diversity of the Earth. (Image: NASA)

The problem, which occurred in December last year, persisted even after the team tried to restart FDS and return it to the state it was in before the problem started, but the spacecraft still did not return usable data.

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What is Voyager-1?

NASA launched Voyager 1 on September 5, 1977 to study the exoplanets in the solar system. It has provided unprecedented insights into Jupiter and Saturn. Her signature image, “Pale Blue Dot,” captured Earth from a record distance in 1990, depicting our planet as a tiny dot in the vastness of space.

Voyager 1 officially entered interstellar space in 2012, becoming the first human-made object to do so. It continues its journey carrying a golden record with sounds and images representing Earth's diversity, a time capsule of possible extraterrestrial encounters.

Published by:

Sibu Kumar Tripathi

Published on:

February 7, 2024

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