Scientists Finally Discovered What Made NASA’s Voyager 1 Spacecraft Stopped Communicating, Here’s How They Are Working To Fix The Issue

NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft is currently experiencing a communication breakdown between Interstellar Space and Earth. NASA engineers recently discovered the major cause of this breakdown. The team behind the operation of Voyager 1 revealed that a small portion of corrupted memory likely exists in one of the space probe’s computers.

The issue made the Voyager 1 spacecraft transmit unreadable data back to Earth from Interstellar Space. Hence, the glitch causing this issue was discovered to be in the probe’s flight data subsystem (FDS). The FDS system is designed to prepare the spacecraft’s science and engineering data before the telemetry modulation unit (TMU) and radio transmitter send it to mission control on Earth.

How NASA Engineers Discovered The Voyager 1 Spacecraft Glitch

On March 3, 2024, NASA’s engineers handling the Voyager 1 operations sent a “poke” to the spacecraft. It was at this moment that the operators of this interstellar spacecraft began to notice the origin of the issue. The “poke” was meant to prompt FDS to transmit full memory readout back to Earth. When the readout reached Earth, NASA engineers discovered that about 3% of the FDS memory had been corrupted.

The corrupted memory was actually stopping the computer from efficiently conducting its normal operations. NASA launched the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1977. It successfully entered interstellar space in 2012 becoming the first human-made object to reach such a great distance. Voyager 1 was followed shortly by its twin Voyager 2 when the latter left our star system in 2018.

In Nov. 2023, the spacecraft’s binary code started having issues as transmitted unreadable data. The engineers believed that the glitch may have started because of a single chip used for storing part of the affected portion of the malfunctioning FDS memory. Hence, NASA has yet to determine what actually caused this particular issue.

Some scientists are suggesting that the chip could have been struck by a high-speed energetic particle from interstellar space, or it may have been worn out after operating for 46 years.

How NASA is Planning to Provide Solutions to Its Probe’s Communication Issue

Voyager 1 spacecraft is currently exploring space at about 15 billion miles (24 billion kilometers) away from Earth. This implies that it takes about 22.5 hours to send a radio signal to the probe. It also takes another 22.5 hours for the spacecraft to send back a response through the Deep Space Network’s antennas.

Hence, resolving the communication issue is actually challenging. NASA scientists and engineers are hopeful of finding a means of solving the issue and helping the FDS to operate normally and possibly function without the unusable memory hardware. It could take NASA engineers a few weeks or months to solve this issue. But one thing is certain, the team will not stop trying until the Voyager 1 spacecraft starts to return enrich useful science and engineering data once again.

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