After traversing billions of miles and spending nearly five decades in space, NASA’s Voyager 1 space probe has begun sending meaningless data back to Earth. Launched in 1977, the spacecraft was originally on a five-year mission to fly by Jupiter and Saturn, but has somehow continued to venture into space for the past 46 years. It became the first man-made object to leave the solar system, BBC mentioned.
In 2023, it would typically take more than 22 hours for signals from Voyager 1 to reach Earth. but, NASA Reports indicate that the probe, which is currently located 15 billion miles from our planet, is suffering from a communications glitch.
Voyager 1 is equipped with three on-board computers: one dedicated to flight data, collecting information from the spacecraft’s scientific instruments, and another to handle engineering data, acting like an encrypted health bar reflecting Voyager 1’s status.
On Earth, NASA receives data sent in binary code, a language that uses zeros and ones to represent letters, numbers and symbols. Binary code is so named because it is based on only two symbols.
However, a noticeable issue has arisen where the probe is now exhibiting repetitive behavior, constantly sending the same code snippet. This repetition led scientists to suspect a malfunction in the spacecraft.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is responsible for managing many robotic missions, addressed the situation on social media, saying: “The NASA Voyager team is investigating an issue in Voyager 1’s flight data system. The spacecraft receives and executes commands sent from Earth but does not return Usable data.”
Last year, NASA revealed its decision to deactivate certain systems on both Voyager 1 and its counterpart Voyager 2. The strategic move is intended to maximize their operational lives until their plutonium power sources are exhausted.
Projections indicate that these probes will remain operational until 2030. After reaching this milestone, their transmitters and instruments will stop working, causing the spacecraft to stall, eventually drifting aimlessly through space.
These remarkable spacecraft are the only man-made objects operating outside the heliosphere’s extended region of the Sun’s magnetic fields and particles that extend far beyond the orbit of Pluto.
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