The Voyager 1 house probe seems to be confused about its location

Voyager 1 — one among two house probes NASA launched in 1977 to check Jupiter, Saturn and their respective moons — is sending complicated information again to Earth, in accordance to the house company. The spacecraft’s management system commonly sends telemetry information again to NASA that signifies its location. However Voyager 1’s engineering workforce has lately been puzzled by readouts from the spacecraft that include jumbled or inaccurate information. Much more perplexingly, the practically 45-year-old probe is in any other case in good condition — its sign continues to be sturdy and the glitch hasn’t triggered its secure mode. Voyager 2 (Voyager 1’s sister probe) seems to be completely high-quality.

“A thriller like that is kind of par for the course at this stage of the Voyager mission,” mentioned Suzanne Dodd, the venture supervisor for the Voyager program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The spacecraft are each virtually 45 years outdated, which is much past what the mission planners anticipated. We’re additionally in interstellar house – a high-radiation surroundings that no spacecraft have flown in earlier than. So there are some huge challenges for the engineering workforce.”

Speaking with Voyager 1 is less complicated mentioned than finished. Each probes at the moment are farther away from Earth than Pluto — Voyager 1 is an estimated 14.5 billion miles away from our planet. It takes roughly two days to obtain a response from the spacecraft after sending a message, in line with NASA.

Dodd mentioned that NASA could give you the option to resolve the problem by software program adjustments or doubtlessly one among the spacecraft’s redundant {hardware} techniques. If not, the company will “should adapt” to the glitch.

Both means, NASA will lose contact with each drones in the subsequent few years after they run out of their power provide. Each Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 run on plutonium-238, which decays with time. Scientists estimate that by 2025, neither probe could have sufficient plutonium-238 to nonetheless function correctly. There’s a finite provide of plutonium left on Earth, and producing it’s time-consuming and difficult. For a few years, Russia offered NASA with plutonium-238, till it severed this settlement in 2015. Fortunately for NASA, the US Division of Power re-started home plutonium-238 manufacturing at Oak Ridge Laboratory, making numerous present and future NASA missions doable —together with NASA’s Perseverance Rover.

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