Scientists Revive Voyager 1 With Computer Fix From 15 Billion Miles Away

Apr 26, 2024

How Far Away Is Voyager 1?

Restoring power to a video game console that just won’t turn on can seem hard. Imagine fixing a computer glitch on a space probe that’s 15 billion miles away.

NASA scientists pulled it off last week. They sent a successful computer fix beyond our solar system. It brought the Voyager 1 probe back to life. For five months, the 46-year-old craft had been transmitting unreadable data back to Earth. The scientists restored Voyager by sending it what they described as a “poke.”

“Today was a great day for Voyager 1,” Voyager project scientist Linda Spilker said Saturday. “We’re back in communication with the spacecraft. And we look forward to getting science data back.”

The Voyager team sent the craft multiple commands. They forced it to restart its computer system. In that process, they discovered a defective chip in the system. Engineers moved the software code elsewhere. That made the ship’s science data usable again.

Suzanne Dodd is a Voyager project manager. “We never know for sure what’s going to happen with the Voyagers, but it constantly amazes me when they just keep going,” she said of both Voyagers 1 and 2. “We’ve had many anomalies, and they are getting harder. But we’ve been fortunate so far to recover from them. And the mission keeps going.” 

Besides transmitting data back to Earth, the Voyagers contain recordings of sounds, images, music, and greetings. The hope is that perhaps one day alien beings might find them. 

Reflect: What kinds of skills do you think are necessary to keep a spacecraft like Voyager flying and communicating with Earth?

Which of the following questions can be answered by consulting EITHER the infographic OR the article? (Common Core RI.5.7; RI.6.7)
a. What is the heliosphere?
b. How far away is Voyager 1 from Earth?
c. How did NASA scientists reconnect with Voyager 1?
d. When did NASA scientists reconnect with Voyager 1?
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