NASA Fixes ‘Critical System’ Issue On Voyager 1—No Long-Term Problems Expected


NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced Tuesday it solved a computer problem that was causing the Voyager 1 spacecraft to send garbled information about its status, which engineers don’t believe will pose any “threat to the long-term health” of the most distant human-made spacecraft.

Key Facts

NASA said in May that Voyager 1 started sending invalid information from a “critical system” called the attitude articulation and control system, which supplies details about its health and activities.

Engineers determined the spacecraft somehow started processing information through a long-dead computer before sending it back to Earth, and solved the problem by rerouting its data to a working computer.

It’s unclear why Voyager 1 started using the incorrect computer, with NASA noting it could “indicate there is an issue somewhere else on the spacecraft,” though not one it believes will imperil its mission.

Voyager 1 continued returning scientific data and took commands from Earth during the period it was sending corrupted information about its health, according to NASA.

Crucial Quote

“We’re cautiously optimistic, but we still have more investigating to do,” Suzanne Dodd, Voyager’s project manager, said in a statement.

Key Background

NASA launched the Voyager 1 probe in 1977 with a mission of exploring outer regions of the solar system and ultimately interstellar space. It became the first human-made object to cross the threshold into interstellar space on August 25, 2012, according to NASA, where it has continued taking readings on phenomena like magnetic fields and interstellar gasses. Its cameras were shut off in 1990 to preserve power and memory space, according to NASA.

Big Number

More than 14.6 billion miles. That’s how far Voyager 1 is from Earth. It continues moving away from Earth at a speed of just over 38,000 mph.

Further Reading

NASA’s Voyager 1 Spacecraft Detects ‘Gentle Rain’ Of Vibrating Interstellar Plasma (Forbes)