Why is NASA sending Voyager 1 ‘impossible data’ to Earth?

NASA scientists are struggling to make sense of the data sent back by the probe, which was launched into the solar system 44 years ago

Scientists were baffled after NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft returned ‘impossible data’ from the edge of the solar system.

The space agency’s engineering team is currently investigating the situation on the probe, which is currently flying through the intersellar medium.

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The data received on Earth has caused some headaches – but what does it actually mean?

Here’s everything you need to know.

NASA’s Voyager 1 sent ‘impossible data’ back to Earth – here’s what it means. (Image credit: Getty Images)

What data did Voyager 1 send to Earth?

NASA released a statement on May 18 saying a team is currently investigating “the source of a system data problem.”

According to the agency, the Voyager 1 probe is “operating normally, receiving and executing commands from Earth and collecting and sending back scientific data.”

However, it is believed that the information and data sent by the explorer “does not reflect what is actually happening on board”.

NASA says an antenna attached to Voyager, pointed at Earth to send data back, appears to work, but sends back the invalid data.

Are NASA Scientists Concerned About Voyager 1?

Though the data is confused, NASA’s engineering team isn’t overly concerned about Voyager 1’s condition.

In a statement, the agency said: “The issue has not triggered any onboard fault protection systems designed to place the spacecraft into ‘safe mode’ – a state in which only essential operations are performed, giving engineers time to diagnose an issue.”

“Voyager 1’s signal hasn’t weakened either, indicating that the high-gain antenna is staying in its prescribed pointing to Earth.”

Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager 1 and 2 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, added: “A mystery like this is par for the course at this stage of the Voyager mission.”

How long was Voyager 1 in space?

The spacecraft was launched into the solar system in 1977.

Operating for a total of 44 years, it has expanded its mission to explore the limits of the outer helisphere and the interstellar medium.

The extended mission is expected to last until 2025, when certain elements of the spacecraft will no longer be able to power the odor-laden instruments onboard.

Ms Dodd said: “The spacecraft are both nearly 45 years old, which is well beyond what mission planners anticipated.”

Previously, Voyager 1 had made notable flybys of Juptier and Saturn, as well as Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

Where is Voyager 1 now?

Confirming that the spacecraft is currently in the interstellar medium, Ms Dodd said: “We are [also] in interstellar space – a high-radiation environment where no spacecraft has flown before. So there are some big challenges for the engineering team. But I think if there is a way to solve this problem with the AACS, our team will find it.”

This makes Voyager 1 the first spacecraft ever to have passed the heliopause into interstellar space.

It first reached it in August 2012 and has since sent back data confirming its location.

https://www.nationalworld.com/news/world/nasa-voyager-1-space-probe-sending-back-impossible-data-3703419 Why is NASA sending Voyager 1 ‘impossible data’ to Earth?


Hung is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Hung joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: hung@interreviewed.com.

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