Mystery as NASA investigates anomalous Voyager 1 telemetry

The long-lived space probe has been sending back some unusual data and nobody can figure out why.

Launched in 1977, both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 have traveled further from the Earth than any other man-made object in history and remain operational despite over 40 years of traveling through space.

Now though, Voyager 1 has become the focus of a mystery in the form of readouts from its attitude articulation and control system (AACS) which don’t seem to reflect what’s happening onboard.

Everything on the spacecraft appears to be working correctly – it is successfully receiving and executing commands and its high-gain antenna is still pointing back towards the Earth.

The telemetry data, however, is gibberish – appearing either randomly generated or reflecting an invalid state for the AACS.

Whatever the problem is, it hasn’t triggered any of the onboard fault protection systems, so the precise cause of the anomalous readouts remains something of a mystery for NASA’s engineers.

As things stand, Voyager 1 doesn’t appear to be in any immediate danger, however NASA will continue to work on the problem in an effort to determine what might be going wrong.

“A mystery like this is sort of par for the course at this stage of the Voyager mission,” said project manager Suzanne Dodd.

“The spacecraft are both almost 45 years old, which is far beyond what the mission planners anticipated. We’re also in interstellar space – a high-radiation environment that no spacecraft have flown in before. So there are some big challenges for the engineering team.”

“But I think if there’s a way to solve this issue with the AACS, our team will find it.”


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