Tech - News
Here's Why Scientists Are Worried About Voyager 1
Voyager 1 is sending mysterious “readouts from the probe's attitude articulation and control system (AACS),” according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The AACS is critical for the Voyager 1 mission as it controls the spacecraft's orientation and, by extension, the antenna used for communication with Earth.
Fortunately, the 45-year-old probe’s signal has not weakened, its antenna still points toward Earth, and its fault protection systems and consequent “safe mode” were not triggered. Engineers are now investigating the invalid data to understand if the failure originated from the AACS or another system on the spacecraft.
Every year that goes by, Voyager 1 loses about four watts of the total electric power it generates, so engineers will have to work around the AACS anomaly with this limited power supply. When NASA encounters this type of problem in distant spacecraft, the Voyager team works to solve it through software updates or deploying redundant systems.
If software updates or redundant systems do not do the trick, NASA will have to get even more creative and learn to adapt to the AACS mystery. Amatuer astronomers can check out all the details of Voyager 1 on JPL’s Voyager mission status tracker homepage, or even follow the spacecraft on its official Twitter account.