Six Months Later, Voyager 1 Is Finally Sending Back Scientific Data After NASA Completes Historic Rescue

  • NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft had stopped transmitting readable data in November 2023.

  • The space agency has combined its antennas’ power to communicate with the old space probe.

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A few weeks ago, NASA released a photo (see above) showing the six antennas of the Deep Space Network in Madrid, Spain, facing the Voyager 1 probe. The government agency has now confirmed that it has received new scientific data from the spacecraft after months of only getting gibberish.

Six antennas working together. The Voyager 1 spacecraft is currently over 15 billion miles away from Earth. At this distance, electromagnetic waves take about a day to travel between the probe and our planet. As Voyager 1 ventures deeper into interstellar space, NASA has combined the power of its antennas to maintain communication with the probe.

By coordinating the 112-foot and 230-foot diameter antennas in Madrid, Goldstone (California), and Canberra (Australia), NASA’s Deep Space Network can now receive new scientific data from Voyager at 160 bits per second.

NASA achieves the impossible. In November 2023, the Voyager 1 space probe stopped sending readable data. Despite the challenges posed by the probe’s distance and age, NASA engineers were able to identify the root of the problem–a damaged memory chip that had corrupted part of the flight data subsystem code.

To address the issue, the team decided to relocate the affected code to another memory location. However, the spacecraft had limited storage, and neither location was large enough to contain the entire source code. As a result, NASA scientists divided the code into sections and changed the locations the code pointed at. 

Software update complete. NASA restored the delivery of engineering data in April. Now, the software upgrade has been completed, allowing Voyager 1 to resume sending science data. This demonstrates dedication to the space mission, as each command takes 22.5 hours to reach the probe.

Launched in 1977, both Voyager 1 and its twin, Voyager 2, continue to collect valuable data on interstellar plasma and the heliopause, where the solar wind meets the interstellar medium and ceases to be dominant.

Image | NASA/JPL

Related | NASA’s Europa Clipper Is Sending a ‘Message in a Bottle’ to Jupiter With 2.6 Million Names

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