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NASA engineers appear to have a plan to save Voyager 1 – NASA

NASA engineers appear to have a plan to save Voyager 1 – NASA

A new signal emitted by the most distant humanoid creature may be the key to recovering the spacecraft.

It's been four months since NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft last sent a clear signal back to Earth, and the problem is turning out to be an intractable mystery for the engineers responsible for tracking the most distant humanoid creature, which is currently exploring interstellar space.

But the team of engineers from NASA's Gas Propulsion Laboratory, based in California, responsible for managing the vehicle, She seems more optimistic now. On March 1, engineers sent a signal to Voyager 1 — currently more than 24 billion kilometers from our planet — to “subtly nudge” one of the spacecraft’s computers to try different sequences in a program. This was another step in NASA's efforts to solve the problem facing the spacecraft at such an astronomical distance, and to isolate the reason why Voyager 1 was unable to transmit the spacecraft's telemetry data.

Engineers suspect that a memory failure in the Flight Data Subsystem (FDS), one of the spacecraft's three main computers, is the most likely cause of the communication problems with Voyager 1. Since the spacecraft is so far away, they needed about 45 hours for engineers at the center to Control to determine whether Voyager 1 had responded to their commands, as the signal took approximately 22.5 hours to get to and from the vehicle.

The FDS collects science and engineering data from the spacecraft's sensors, then combines it into a single data packet, which is passed through another system called the Telemetry Management Unit (TMU), which transmits the data back to the spacecraft, using the Voyager system. Long distance antenna.

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Engineers seem almost certain that the problem is with the FDS. Voyager 1's communications systems appear to be operating normally as the spacecraft transmits steadily to Earth, but the received signal contains no usable data. This means that engineers know that Voyager 1 is still “alive,” but they don't know which part of the FDS memory is causing the problem.

However, Voyager 1 responded to the exploratory command to locate the problem sent from Earth on March 1 by doing something different than what engineers had observed since the problem was first detected on November 14.

“The new signal was not yet in the form that Voyager 1 used while the FDS system was operating normally, so the team was initially unsure how to interpret it,” NASA said in a statement issued last Wednesday. “But an engineer at the agency’s Deep Space Network, responsible for operating the antennas that communicate with both Voyager and other spacecraft heading to the Moon and beyond, was able to decode the new signal and found that it contained a status report from each FDS memory.”

Engineers are now comparing each element of the code describing the state of the FDS memory with the signals Voyager 1 was sending to Earth before the problem occurred in November. In this way, they hope to find the root of the problem. But it will likely be weeks or even months before the team running Voyager moves to the next step, because the last thing engineers want is to create new problems.

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The current situation is the most severe test that the spacecraft has faced since its launch from Earth in 1977. Voyager 1 flew close to Jupiter and Saturn, exploiting the latter's gravitational field to develop a speed that allowed it to move towards the outer solar system. In 2012, Voyager 1 entered interstellar space, when it left behind the heliosphere, that is, the point where the solar wind, that stream of charged particles emanating from the Sun, meets the so-called galactic wind, that is, the particles that occupy interstellar space.

Engineers have managed to keep both Voyager 1 and its twin probe, Voyager 2, operational for more than 46 years, overcoming technical problems that led to the failure of other space missions. Both ships are facing exhaustion of the fuel that powers their nuclear batteries, while concerns are being raised about aging propulsion devices and the possibility of blockage of fuel pipes, among other issues. But whenever a problem arose, the teams managing the spacecraft managed to find a way to keep Voyager on mission, often turning to files containing old blueprints and engineering documents dating back to when the double vehicle was designed and built, nearly 50 years ago.

Susan Dodd, head of the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 management team, said in a recent statement that engineers will need to record “the greatest miracle” yet in order to return Voyager 1 to normal operation. Now, Voyager 1's sound from interstellar space has given engineers a clue that might allow them to pull off this miracle.





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