Recently, NASA announced that its Voyager 1 probe, the most distant man-made object in the Universe, had stopped transmitting usable data back to Earth in November 2023. However, after months of spouting gibberish, the spacecraft is now once again returning valuable information to ground control. This breakthrough was made possible after a team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory discovered that a single malfunctioning chip was the root cause of the communication error.

With the identification of the malfunctioning chip, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory worked tirelessly to devise a coding fix that would allow the spacecraft to overcome its 46-year-old computer system’s memory constraints. The clever coding fix proved to be successful, enabling the Voyager 1 spacecraft to transmit data about the health and status of its onboard engineering systems once again. The next milestone for the spacecraft is to start sending back science data, a crucial step in furthering our understanding of the interstellar space.

Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 holds the distinction of being the first spacecraft created by mankind to enter the interstellar medium in 2012. Currently, the probe is positioned more than 15 billion miles away from Earth, making it a testament to human achievement and exploration. Messages from ground control to the spacecraft take approximately 22.5 hours to reach their destination, highlighting the vastness of space.

Both Voyager 1 and its twin, Voyager 2, have left the solar system, with Voyager 2 achieving this milestone in 2018. One of the most fascinating aspects of these spacecraft is the “Golden Record” they carry. These 12-inch, gold-plated copper disks are intended to convey the story of Earth to any potential extraterrestrial beings that may encounter the probes in the future. The contents of the record include a map of our solar system, symbolic instructions on how to play the record, and encoded images and sounds representing life on Earth.

Despite their incredible journey through space, the power banks of the Voyager spacecraft are expected to be depleted sometime after 2025. Once their power runs out, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 will continue to drift through the Milky Way, potentially for eternity, serving as silent ambassadors of humanity’s quest for exploration and discovery.

Space

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