NASA hopes to resolve Voyager 1's communication issues by 'poking' its flight data computer

Shot of the NASA Voyager 1 probe, taken from the official voyager.jpl.nasa.gov site
(Image credit: NASA)

Back in 2023, we reported that NASA had lost telemetry and thus alignment, steering controls, and usable research data from its historic Voyager 1 probe as it drifted deeper into space, leaving its fate uncertain— but today, a new NASA blog post gives us some more hope for the Voyager. The agency now has a full readout of the ship's FDS memory, which could hopefully lead to a fix.

NASA never actually lost communication with the device. Usable research data and most controls have simply not been working for months, though— which is particularly problematic when even sending signals to the Voyager in the depths of space can take as long as 22.5 hours, 45 hours once you count the round trip. If the issues with Voyager can't be fixed, it will indeed be lost to the cosmos, permanently, though not before having made human history in the process.

So, why is Voyager 1, the probe also known as the farthest human-made object from Earth, in such a position where it could be permanently retired 45 years after its launch in 1977? The date of that original launch should give a hint: the primitive equivalent to RAM inside the Voyager's onboard Flight Data System (FDS), finally flipped or corrupted. Truthfully, the fact it's even lasted this long drifting through the stars is kind of a miracle in and of itself.

So, on March 1, NASA decided to send a "poke" to Voyager 1. The "poke" was a command that pushed the FDS through different sequences in hopes of finding the offending bits. The response, received on March 3rd, was mostly the same indecipherable data stream as before, but with a new signal in an unrecognizable format.

Decoding of the new signal data commenced on March 7th, and three days later, on March 10th, NASA scientists confirmed the peculiar new signal was actually a full readout of the FDS' memory— exactly the diagnostics data they've needed to find the true root of this issue and potentially fix it.

With any luck, this breakthrough will lead to a full fix for the Voyager, or at least make it recoverable so we can bring the Voyager back here to Earth. After a four-decade odyssey across the stars, anybody would need the rest.

Freelance News Writer
  • atomicWAR
    Fingers crossed they find a fix. I have been amazed at the exploration longevity the Voyager I has provided the scientific community. I hope they save it. Long live V'ger.
    Reply
  • elforeign
    atomicWAR said:
    Fingers crossed they find a fix. I have been amazed at the exploration longevity the Voyager I has provided the scientific community. I hope they save it. Long live V'ger.

    Eagerly awaiting any updates in the coming days or weeks on this. Hopefully they have the breakthrough and can get useful telemetry and data back in working order.
    Reply
  • milleron
    What does the author mean by making the probe "recoverable" and "bring it back to Earth?"
    Reply
  • vanadiel007
    I bet it's not running Windows lol.
    Reply
  • woot
    milleron said:
    What does the author mean by making the probe "recoverable" and "bring it back to Earth?"
    That's probably just a joke.
    Reply
  • derekullo
    milleron said:
    What does the author mean by making the probe "recoverable" and "bring it back to Earth?"
    "The Flight Data Subsystem in Voyager 1 has successfully sent a (Memory) readout need for diagnostics and a potential fix back to Earth."

    Not sure if it was corrected, but they mean voyager transmitted the data through radio waves back to earth.

    Recoverable means that can hopefully start using Voyager again for its intended purpose once the memory has been analyzed for whatever is causing the malfunction.
    Reply
  • coromonadalix
    dont worry people, it will be back as V Ger to meet it's creator loll
    Reply
  • das_stig
    Go Voyager 1 ..... funny how something like this ancient tech is/was more reliable and has lasted longer than anything Microsoft can produce with all its latest tech and money, yes looking at you Windows.
    Reply
  • kb7rky
    I remember when the Voyagers were launched. The fact thay're still going after 45+ years is impressive as hell.

    I do hope Voyager 1 gets a fix soon.
    Reply