NASA Sound Alarm Over Voyager’s Incoherent Babble

For nearly fifty years, the two Voyager spacecraft operated by NASA have explored the farthest reaches of the cosmos. The probes, launched in 1977, have endured many challenges, from near-fatal software problems to decreasing power supplies and dirty thrusters.

Voyager1’s condition is deteriorating as it floats beyond the solar system’s generally defined boundary, which is located 15 billion miles away. Recently, scientists began to worry when the probe began transmitting incoherent communications back to Earth as if its age were finally catching up.

A report shows Suzanne Dodd, the Voyager project manager, said that it essentially ceased communicating in a comprehensible way. As a result, Voyager 1 is not transmitting binary data but rather alternating 1s and 0s. So far, attempts to reset the probe have proven unsuccessful. As the technology behind it goes back to the 1970s, this should not be surprising. They have flown for 46 years and counting, which is incredible.

In the meantime, the ground crew is attempting to put themselves in the shoes of the original programmers to diagnose the probe by discovering the reasoning behind their design decisions.

Dodd said none of the spaceship’s original crew members are still with us. Although their documents are plentiful, most of them are written on paper.

Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, part of NASA, will attempt many alternative strategies over the next several months to restore Voyager 1’s scientific mission.

According to Caltech astronomer Stella Ocker, they don’t know what the spacecraft’s environment looks like since scientific data hasn’t been coming in since this anomaly occurred.  The probes’ operators are taking precautions to conserve the depleting power supply as their plutonium stocks, which power them, are also beginning to run short.

According to astronomer Stamatios Krimigis, who has been involved with the Voyager 1 project as Principal Investigator, his motto was ‘fifty years or bust.’  However, he did admit that they were getting close to that deadline.