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The Voyager 1 probe continues to be exploring interstellar area 45 years after launching, nevertheless it has encountered a difficulty that mystifies the spacecraft’s crew on Earth.

Voyager 1 continues to function properly, regardless of its superior age and 14.5 billion-mile distance (23.3 billion kilometers) from Earth. And it might probably obtain and execute instructions despatched from NASA, in addition to collect and ship again science knowledge.

However the readouts from the angle articulation and management system, which management the spacecraft’s orientation in area, don’t match up with what Voyager is definitely doing. The angle articulation and management system, or AACS, ensures that the probe’s high-gain antenna stays pointed at Earth so Voyager can ship knowledge again to NASA.

On account of Voyager’s interstellar location, it takes gentle 20 hours and 33 minutes to journey a technique, so the decision and response of 1 message between NASA and Voyager takes two days.

Up to now, the Voyager crew believes the AACS continues to be working, however the instrument’s knowledge readouts appear random or unimaginable. The system difficulty hasn’t triggered something to place the spacecraft into “protected mode” thus far. That’s when solely important operations happen so engineers can diagnose a difficulty that may put the spacecraft in danger.

And Voyager’s sign is as sturdy as ever, which means the antenna continues to be pointed to Earth. The crew is making an attempt to find out if this incorrect knowledge is coming straight from this instrument or if one other system is inflicting it.

“Till the character of the problem is healthier understood, the crew can not anticipate whether or not this may have an effect on how lengthy the spacecraft can acquire and transmit science knowledge,” in line with a NASA launch.

“A thriller like that is kind of par for the course at this stage of the Voyager mission,” stated Suzanne Dodd, mission supervisor for Voyager 1 and a pair of at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in an announcement.

“The spacecraft are each virtually 45 years previous, which is much past what the mission planners anticipated. We’re additionally in interstellar area – a high-radiation surroundings that no spacecraft have flown in earlier than. So there are some huge challenges for the engineering crew. However I feel if there’s a method to clear up this difficulty with the AACS, our crew will discover it.”

If the crew doesn’t decide the supply of the problem, they could simply adapt to it, Dodd stated. Or if they’ll discover it, the problem could also be solved by making a software program change or counting on a redundant {hardware} system.

Voyager has already relied on backup techniques to final so long as it has. In 2017, the probe fired thrusters that have been used throughout its preliminary planetary encounters through the Nineteen Seventies – they usually nonetheless labored after remaining unused for 37 years.

The growing older probes produce little or no energy per yr, so subsystems and heaters have been turned off over time in order that vital techniques and science devices can preserve working.

Voyager 2, a twin spacecraft, continues to function properly in interstellar area 12.1 billion miles (19.5 billion kilometers) from Earth. By comparability, Neptune, the farthest planet from Earth, is, at most, solely 2.9 billion miles away. Each probes have been launched in 1977 and have far exceeded their authentic objective to fly by planets.

Now, they’ve turn out to be the one two spacecraft to collect knowledge from interstellar area and supply insights in regards to the heliosphere, or the bubble created by the solar that extends past the planets in our photo voltaic system.

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