The Voyager 1 interstellar probe is almost saved from its stubborn bug

NASA almost succeeded in completely saving Voyager 1 from its strange glitch. The interstellar probe is once again sending correct scientific data. But there are still 2 instruments to recalibrate.

NASA’s efforts are paying off. The Voyager 1 probe, affected by a mysterious bug for many months, finally manages to send scientific data back to Earth. The good news was confirmed on May 22, 2024 by the American space agency. “ On May 19, mission scientists began receiving data from two of the four science instruments aboard our 46-year-old spacecraft », welcomed the X account of JPL.

This is a more than encouraging announcement. Rescuing Voyager 1 is a delicate maneuver, because the probe operates billions of kilometers from Earth, beyond the solar system. Due to its cryptic bug (which actually came from one of the onboard computers), Voyager 1 no longer communicated normally. The mission sent a signal containing neither technical nor scientific data.

At the end of April, after 5 months of “space troubleshooting”, we learned that Voyager 1 was still capable of communicating with Earth. The probe could send usable technical data, providing information on its status and that of its instruments. It still remained to re-establish the link allowing scientific data to be retrieved. This decisive step has just been reached, even if everything is not yet completely resolved.

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Artist’s impression of a Voyager probe. // Source: NASA/JPL

It will take weeks to save Voyager 1’s 2 remaining instruments

The two scientific instruments returning data are the Plasma Wave Receiver (PWS) and the Magnetometer (MAG). There are still two instruments aboard Voyager 1 unable to transmit scientific data: the cosmic ray detector (CRS) and the low energy particle detector (LECP). This is NASA’s next step to completely save the interstellar probe: “ recalibrate the two remaining instruments, which could take weeks. »

NASA will therefore continue to grope, as it explains well in a publication by the X account dedicated to the mission of the Voyager probes. “ It’s a bit like when you have a power outage and you have to go around your house to reset all your electronic devices… That’s basically what my team and I are doing “, we can read in the tweet, lending an imaginary voice to Voyager 1.

The end of this DIY will probably still require a lot of patience. Voyager 1 is traveling more than 24 billion kilometers from Earth. Each message sent by the probe takes more than 22 hours to reach our planet (the same amount of time is necessary to transmit an instruction). The data received on May 19 by NASA followed a sending of commands on May 17. The teams therefore had to wait two days before discovering the good news.

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