Voyager 1 Glitch Puzzles NASA

Venerable space traveler is mainly OK, but some of the data it's sending back is off
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2022 12:55 PM CDT
Voyager 1 Glitch Puzzles NASA
An artist's depiction of Voyager 1.   (NASA)

(Newser) – In the grand scheme of things, the astonishing Voyager 1 is still behaving like a champ. But the 45-year-old space probe is experiencing a glitch that has NASA scientists baffled, reports CNN. As Space.com describes it, Voyager has lately "appeared confused about its location in space." However, it continues to receive instructions from NASA and act on them, and to gather and send back data. The glitch involves what's known as the attitude articulation and control system, or AACS, which keep Voyager's antenna pointed at Earth, among other things. The AACS is working, but "the telemetry data it’s returning is invalid," NASA explains in a statement. "For instance, the data may appear to be randomly generated, or does not reflect any possible state the AACS could be in."

For now, NASA says it will continue to observe the problem, which apparently hasn't been serious enough to trigger one of Voyager's onboard fault protection systems and put the craft into "safe mode." The spacecraft left our solar system about a decade ago and is now about 14.5 billion miles from Earth in interstellar space. Its 45-year run has far exceeded expectations at the 1977 launch. Because of that, NASA sought to keep things in perspective. "A mystery like this is sort of par for the course at this stage of the Voyager mission," says project manager Suzanne Dodd of the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. (Voyager 2, also launched in 1977, is chugging along in interstellar space just fine.)

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