Scientists are trying to solve the mystery of NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft. The device works properly, receives and executes commands from Earth, as well as collects and sends scientific data – but the performance of the AACS system, which is responsible for orientation, is very strange.
Everything indicates that the system is still working, but the data looks as if it was generated randomly. Or it may not reflect any possible system status. However, none of the onboard protection systems responded to the problem and did not put the vehicle in “safe mode” to give engineers time to find the fault. Voyager 1 signal is not weakened, which means that AACS continues to keep its antenna in the right direction.
Until the nature of the problem is understood scientists continue to closely monitor the signal. It is unknown whether this will affect the vehicle’s ability to collect and transmit scientific data.
Voyager 1 is a 45-year-old spacecraft exploring interstellar space. Voyager and its twin brother, Voyager 2, were launched in 1977, with both vehicles far exceeding developers’ expectations while still in touch. Voyager 1 is 23.3 billion kilometers from Earth. Light travels this distance in 20 hours and 33 minutes, so scientists have to wait almost two days to send a message and receive a response.
Voyagers are the only vehicles in interstellar space. This is an environment with high radiation, which could also affect performance. Scientists are now confident that they will find the cause of incorrect telemetry, or be able to adapt to the anomaly.
Voyager 2, located 19.5 billion kilometers from Earth, continues to operate normally.