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Voyager 1 Returning Science Data From All Four Instruments

Voyager-1 Spacecraft
Voyager-1 Spacecraft. Credit: NASA JPL

Ibadan, 17 June 2024. – NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has returned to conducting normal science operations for the first time following a technical issue that arose in November 2023.

The team at NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) partially resolved the issue in April when they prompted the spacecraft to begin returning engineering data, including information about the health and status of the spacecraft. The mission team subsequently executed the second repair process step on May 19 beaming a command to the spacecraft to begin returning science data. Two of the four science instruments returned to their normal operating modes immediately while the remaining two needed additional work. However, all four have now begun returning usable science data.

The four instruments study plasma waves, magnetic fields, and particles. Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are the only spacecraft to directly sample interstellar space, which is the region outside the heliosphere — the protective bubble of magnetic fields and solar wind created by the Sun.

While Voyager 1 is back to conducting science, additional minor work is necessary to clean up the effects of the issue. Among other tasks, engineers will resynchronize timekeeping software in the spacecraft’s three onboard computers to help execute commands at the right time. The team will also perform maintenance on the digital tape recorder, which records data for the plasma wave instrument which the spacecraft sends to Earth twice yearly.

Voyager 1 is more than 15 billion miles (24 billion kilometers) from Earth, and Voyager 2 is more than 12 billion miles (20 billion kilometers) from the planet. The probes will mark 47 years of operations later this year and are NASA’s longest-running and most distant spacecraft. Both spacecraft flew past Jupiter and Saturn, while Voyager 2 also flew past Uranus and Neptune.

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