NASA engineers investigate strange interstellar spacecraft readings

The engineering team that is in charge of the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which is currently speeding through interstellar space, is trying to figure out why the spacecraft is sending back data readouts that don’t match what the vehicle is actually doing in space. Voyager 1 is NASA’s robotic planetary explorer that is currently in motion. Despite the fact that it does not appear that the Voyager 1 spacecraft is in any immediate danger as a result of this mystery, NASA is still working to figure out what is causing it.

Since its launch in 1977, Voyager 1 has been travelling through space and investigating the cosmos for almost half a century. Its identical counterpart, known as Voyager 2, was put into orbit 16 days earlier in the same year. Before leaving our local cosmic neighbourhood behind entirely, both spacecraft undertook circumnavigations of the outer reaches of the Solar System, during which they photographed the moons of planets and flew by them. The year 2012 marked the year that Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause, the boundary that denotes the beginning of the interstellar medium and the end of the solar wind. Voyager 1 is the man-made object in space that is currently the most distant from Earth. It is currently 14.5 billion miles away.

However, the likelihood that strange things will occur with the spacecraft Voyager 1 increases in direct proportion to the distance between it and Earth. The attitude articulation and control system, also known as the AACS, of the spacecraft is behaving strangely right now. It is the system’s job to keep the vehicle oriented properly in space and to point the high-gain antenna of the probe in the right direction so that it can send and receive signals from Earth. The AACS appears to be operating normally, at least insofar as the engineers are concerned. However, according to NASA, the data that it is returning does not accurately describe what the system is currently doing. In a press release, NASA wrote that the data “may appear to be randomly generated, or does not reflect any possible state the AACS could be in.” As an example, “the data may appear to be randomly generated.”

In every other respect, Voyager 1 appears to be operating normally. NASA reports that it is collecting the required scientific data and is in communication with the engineering team. Additionally, it is performing as expected in terms of data collection. And the problem with the AACS has not caused the spacecraft to enter safe mode, which is a type of operating procedure in which the spacecraft turns off the majority of its instruments and only focuses on the functions that it needs to perform in order to stay alive.

In other words, the group is pushing forward despite the fact that they are simultaneously attempting to figure out what is going on. Suzanne Dodd, the project manager for Voyager 1 and 2 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement that “a mystery like this is sort of par for the course at this stage of the Voyager mission.” “Both of the spacecraft are approaching their 45th birthdays, which is significantly older than the mission planners had anticipated.” We are also in interstellar space, which is known for its high radiation levels and the fact that no spacecraft has ever flown through it before.

A software patch might be an option for a solution to the problem. Or the crew of Voyager 1 might just get used to the situation and learn to cope with it. The Voyager teams have made adaptation a way of life for themselves. The nuclear batteries that keep the spacecraft running are gradually losing their capacity, which results in a gradual decrease in the amount of power available on both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Even though the teams have already been forced to turn off a variety of systems on the spacecraft, the scientific instruments appear to be operating normally, despite the passage of so much time.

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