NASA's Voyager 1 sending useable data back to Earth for first time in months - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

NASA's Voyager 1 sending useable data back to Earth for first time in months

ByArya Vaishnavi
Apr 23, 2024 08:57 PM IST

“The next step is to enable the spacecraft to begin returning science data again,” NASA said

Voyager 1, Earth's most distant spaceship, is sending back data for the first time since November last year. The spacecraft began transmitting useable data after NASA engineers worked for months to devise a way to fix the 46-year-old probe remotely. Currently, 15 billion miles away from Earth, Voyager 1 has started showing signs of ageing in recent years. NASA announced in December 2023 that the spacecraft was sending gibberish patterns of code. Although it maintained contact with Earth over the last few months, it consistently transmitted undecipherable data, which was rendered unusable.

NASA engineers celebrate as Voyager 1 resumes transmitting useable data to Earth for the first time in five months(NASA JPL/ X, formerly Twitter)
NASA engineers celebrate as Voyager 1 resumes transmitting useable data to Earth for the first time in five months(NASA JPL/ X, formerly Twitter)

NASA's Voyager 1 sending data back to Earth again

In a statement released Monday, the US space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced that “after some inventive sleuthing, the mission team can — for the first time in five months — check the health and status of the most distant human-made object in existence.” It added that the spacecraft has resumed sending “usable data about the health and status of its onboard engineering systems” back to Earth.

Why did Voyager 1 stop sending usable data?

Revealing the timeline behind the spacecraft's malfunction, NASA noted in the statement, “Voyager 1 stopped sending readable science and engineering data back to Earth on Nov. 14, 2023,” adding that mission controllers were able to determine at the time that the spacecraft was “receiving their commands and otherwise operating normally.”

Earlier this year, the Voyager engineering team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California confirmed that one of the spacecraft's three onboard computers, the flight data subsystem (FDS), was experiencing an issue. The FDS is responsible for collecting and packaging scientific and engineering data before it is sent back to Earth.

The statement goes on to add that “the team discovered that a single chip responsible for storing a portion of the FDS memory — including some of the FDS computer’s software code — isn’t working.” It added that the loss of the code “rendered the data unusable.” “Unable to repair the chip, the team decided to place the affected code elsewhere in the FDS memory. But no single location is large enough to hold the section of code in its entirety.”

“So they devised a plan to divide the affected code into sections and store those sections in different places in the FDS,” the statement notes, adding, “The team started by singling out the code responsible for packaging the spacecraft’s engineering data. They sent it to its new location in the FDS memory on April 18.”

Following this, the engineering team heard back from the spacecraft on April 20 and noticed that the modification turned out to be a success. “The next step is to enable the spacecraft to begin returning science data again. The probe and its twin, Voyager 2, are the only spacecraft to ever fly in interstellar space (the space between stars),” the statement added.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Saturday, June 22, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On