NASA’s Voyager 1 Sends Data back to Earth

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft is depicted in this artist's concept traveling through interstellar space, or the space between stars. | Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech

One of NASA’s oldest space crafts has begun transmitting data back to Earth after months of silence.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) announced on April 22 that its Voyager 1 spacecraft is sending back information on its systems from deep space. These are the first signals sent from the distant craft since November 2023.

Voyager 1 has been exploring “Interstellar space” through the universe since its launch in September 1977, over 46 years ago. The spacecraft has been collecting valuable data about our solar system alongside its twin, Voyager 2, which launched in August 1977, according to the JPL.

NASA reestablished contact with Voyager 2 August of last year after a two-week silence because scientists at the JPL in California accidentally entered a command for the vessel to tilt its antenna away from the Earth, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

According to NASA, Voyager 1 is now the most distant spacecraft from Earth, having traveled over 15 billion miles away from the planet. However, the craft stopped sending valuable data in November 2023.

Operators discovered that a single chip storing flight data subsystem (FDS) computer software code had not been functioning. To fix this issue, personnel decided to section off the code into different pieces and store them in separate sections of the FDS.

“To make this plan work, they also needed to adjust those code sections to ensure, for example, that they all still function as a whole,” read the JPL’s update. “Any references to the location of that code in other parts of the FDS memory needed to be updated as well.”

Scientists sent the new instructions for the code on April 18. Due to its distance from Earth, the signal took 22.5 hours to reach Voyager 1 and another 22.5 to return to Earth. These communications represented the first of its kind in months.

“Today was a great day for Voyager 1,” said Linda Spilker, Voyager project scientist at JPL, in a statement, according to CNN. “We’re back in communication with the spacecraft. And we look forward to getting science data back.”

Researchers plan to adjust the code over the coming weeks to restore the craft’s ability to send scientific data.

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