NASA’s Voyager 1 Spacecraft Finally Phones Home After 5 Months of No Contact

Voyager 1, launched in September 1977, is currently exploring the farthest edges of the solar system. (Image credit: NASA)

Robert Lea at NASA’s interstellar explorer Voyager 1 is finally communicating with ground control in an understandable way again. On Saturday (April 20), Voyager 1 updated ground control about its health status for the first time in 5 months. While the Voyager 1 spacecraft still isn’t sending valid science data back to Earth, it is now returning usable information about the health and operating status of its onboard engineering systems.

Thirty-five years after its launch in 1977, Voyager 1 became the first human-made object to leave the solar system and enter interstellar space. It was followed out of our cosmic quarters by its space-faring sibling, Voyager 2, six years later in 2018. Voyager 2, thankfully, is still operational and communicating well with Earth.

The two spacecraft remain the only human-made objects exploring space beyond the influence of the sun. However, on Nov. 14, 2023, after 11 years of exploring interstellar space and while sitting a staggering 15 billion miles (24 billion kilometers) from Earth, Voyager 1’s binary code — computer language composed of 0s and 1s that it uses to communicate with its flight team at NASA — stopped making sense.

In March, NASA’s Voyager 1 operating team sent a digital “poke” to the spacecraft, prompting its flight data subsystem (FDS) to send a full memory readout back home. This memory dump revealed to scientists and engineers that the “glitch” is the result of a corrupted code contained on a single chip representing around 3% of the FDS memory. The loss of this code rendered Voyager 1’s science and engineering data unusable.

More here.