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Breakthrough in the Voyager 1 case? The probe sent a surprising signal

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The Voyager 1 probe, the spacecraft that remains farthest from Earth, sent a signal that is different from all the rest reaching NASA engineers in recent months. Scientists hope this will help solve the problem with the on-board computer.

The automatic unmanned Voyager 1 space probe is a unique object sent into space by humans. It is located 24 billion kilometers from Earth, which is about 163 times farther than Earth is from the Sun.

Over the many years of its journey, from launch into cosmos in 1977, the ship was transmitting valuable scientific data. In mid-November last year, a problem occurred regarding the data transmitted radioly by the probe to Earth. The code that went to engineers was repeatable, instead of being a unique string of zeros and ones.

It was determined that this may indicate damage to the flight data system (FDS) in one of the three on-board computers. The probe receives and correctly executes commands from Earth, but the FDS system does not communicate properly with another subsystem, the so-called telemetry modulation unit (TMU). The FDS system's tasks include collecting data from scientific instruments and providing information about the probe's status. It combines them into packets and sends them to Earth via the TMU system.

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Engineers NASA They are currently trying to solve the problem to no avail. The probe was told to reset the computer, but it did not complete the task.

On March 1, the mission team issued a “poke” command to the spacecraft, which translates as “nudge,” intended to launch various software sequences in case a glitch caused the problem that had been ongoing for several months. Two days later, activity in one part of the flight data system was observed to be different from others recently transmitted. Although this signal reached the mission team in a different format, engineers from NASA's Deep Space Network managed to decode it.

The Deep Space Network is a system of large radio antennas on Earth that helps the U.S. space agency communicate with the Voyager probes and other spacecraft that explore the solar system.

According to NASA, the key to solving the mystery lies in the data memory of Voyager's flight system. It contains both the instructions that tell the hardware what it should do and the full set of variables it uses. The latter depend on what commands were given to the ship and its status. The research team plans to compare the anomalous reading with one before the problem occurred. Based on this, engineers want to find discrepancies that can be used to identify the source of the fault.

However, any attempt to restore the probe to proper operation is quite a challenge. The fix is ​​made more difficult by the fact that any commands from Earth take over 22 hours to reach Voyager 1, and it takes the same amount of time for a response back to reach our planet.

Voyager 1 in space – artistic vision Caltech/NASA-JPL

Perhaps in a few hundred years the probe will reach the hypothetical Oort Cloud. It is not aimed at any specific star, but it is predicted that in 40272 (i.e. 38,000 years from now) the probe will pass the star AC+79 3888 in the constellation Ursa Minor at a distance of 1.7 light-years.

Main photo source: Caltech/NASA-JPL



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