Saturday May 21 2022 04:11 AM
According to the space agency, the spacecraft’s control system regularly sends telemetry data to NASA indicating its location, but the engineering team at Voyager 1 was recently baffled by readings from the spacecraft containing mixed or inaccurate data, according to an engadged report.
Even more baffling is that the 45-year-old probe is in good condition otherwise its signal is still strong and the glitch hasn’t triggered safe mode, and Voyager 2 (the sister probe of Voyager 1) appears to be perfectly fine.
“A puzzle like this is a bit like the course at this point in the Voyager mission,” said Susan Dodd, Voyager project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The spacecraft is approximately 45 years old, which is far beyond what mission planners and we expected, and in interstellar space unites a highly radioactive environment where no spacecraft has flown before so there are some big challenges for the engineering team.”
Communicating with Voyager 1 is easier said than done and both probes are now further away from Earth than Pluto – Voyager 1 is roughly 14.5 billion miles from our planet. It takes approximately two days to receive a response from the spacecraft after sending a message, according to NASA.
Dodd said that NASA may be able to fix the problem through software changes or one of the spacecraft’s redundant hardware systems, and if not, the agency will have to “adapt” to the flaw.
Either way, NASA will lose contact with both drones in the next few years when they run out of capacity.
Both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 work on plutonium-238, which decays over time, and scientists estimate that by 2025 neither probe will have enough plutonium-238 to keep working properly.
There is a limited supply of plutonium remaining on Earth, its production is time-consuming and challenging, and for many years Russia supplied NASA with plutonium-238, until it broke that agreement in 2015.
Fortunately for NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy has restarted domestic production of plutonium-238 at Oak Ridge Laboratory, making a number of current and future NASA missions possible, including the persistent NASA rover.
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