From 14.5 billion miles away, Voyager 1 sends hidden data

From 14.5 billion miles away, Voyager 1 sends hidden data ...

While the venerable Voyager 1 probe appears to be functional, it does appear to be something up with some of its tools, according to NASA''s recent press release. AACS'' readings appear to be unenforceable.

For an unknown reason, data from the system does not seem to match up with what is happening on the ship.

This piece of equipment is essential for monitoring and controlling the 45-year-old probe''s orientation, as well as for keeping Voyager 1''s high-gain antenna pinpointed at Earth. This allows it to send data home, and it is very important to keep working correctly.

"All signs suggest the AACS is still working, but the telemetry data it returns is invalid. For instance, the data may be randomly generated, or does not reflect any possibility state the AACS might be in."

Engineers who are responsible for the probe say the issue hasn''t triggered the probe''s fault protection systems, with the mission of putting the spacecraft in safe mode if serious issues arise.

In this mode, Voyager 1 would be able to perform only essential operations, giving engineers the time to diagnose an issue. Consequently, since Voyager 1''s signal hasn''t decreased, this must result in a stable antenna with Earth.

"The team will continue to keep an eye on the signal closely as they continue to determine if invalid data is directly from the AACS or another organization involved in the production and sending telemetry data. "Until the nature of the issue is better understood, the team cannot anticipate whether this might be the effect on the spacecraft''s ability to collect and transmit science data," said NASA.

Where is the Voyager 1 now?

Voyager 1 was first established over 40 years ago and is, officially, the furthest human-made object from Earth at a distance of over 14 billion miles (23.3 billion kilometers). At this distance, it would take about 20 and a half hours to travel.

It takes about two days to send and receive commands and data for transmissions to and from the probe, which is a worry the mission team is all too familiar with.

Suzanne Dodd, the project manager for Voyager 1 and 2 at NASA''s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, believes that this spacecraft is both roughly 45 years old, which is far beyond what the mission planners anticipated. Were also in interstellar space a high-radiation environment that no spacecraft has flown in before. I think our engineering team will find it if there is a way to solve this problem with the AACS.

According to Dodd, we should probably prepare for the possibility that it may not be possible to locate the apparent issue and rather search for a way to proceed. However, corrections may be possible through a software update, which is clear that hardware fixes are still out of the question.

Despite the fact that the craft has some redundant hardware onboard that might be utilized if necessary. This wouldn''t be the first time this type of fix has been attempted.

Back in 2017, the primary thrusters from Voyager 1 showed signs of erosion. To tackle the problem, NASA explains, engineers switched to another set of thrusters that had initially been used during the spacecraft''s planet encounters.

Despite being not used for over 37 years, they have actually responded positively.

Fortunately, Voyager 2, Voyager 1''s twin, appears to be unwell, and is currently 12.1 billion miles, or 19.5 billion kilometers from Earth.

"Both Voyagers have operated far longer than mission planners anticipated, and are the only spacecraft to collect information in interstellar space. The information they provide from this region has helped develop a deeper understandingof the heliosphere and the diffuse barrier that the Sun creates around the planets in our solar system," says NASA.

Both spacecraft operate on a hefty 4 watts of power a year, which is evidently limiting the amount of systems that can run continuously onboard. The mission engineering team hasswitched off various subsystems and heaters in order to preserve power for science instruments and critical systems.

The two spacecraft are still operating and returning unique science until 2025.

NASA assures us that its engineers will continue to research on the information that Voyager 1 has presented. They also confirm that the missions scientists will continue to make the most of the data coming down from the spacecraft''s unique vantage point.

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