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NASA’s Voyager 1 probe is finally making sense again

Published Apr 23rd, 2024 12:50PM EDT
Voyager 1 in space
Image: Aleksandr / Adobe

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After five months of gibberish, Voyager 1 is finally talking to NASA again. The 46-year-old probe randomly started submitting funky data to NASA back in November, and the space agency has been looking for a Voyager 1 fix for the past several months. Now, as the spacecraft approaches a half-century in operation, NASA hopes to get it to return scientific data once again.

“For the first time since November, Voyager 1 is returning useable data about the health and status of its onboard engineering systems,” NASA’s JPL shared on X this week. The probe crossed into interstellar space back in 2012 and currently requires almost two days for commands to reach the probe and then travel back. This made it exceptionally difficult to troubleshoot the issues with its messages when NASA received the first round of gibberish. Still, the agency has prevailed despite it looking like we’d lost Voyager 1 forever.

It’s hard to imagine what losing such an iconic spacecraft would have meant to the team that has spent almost five decades working with it. But NASA says its latest Voyager 1 fix, which it transmitted from Earth on April 18, reached the probe and seems to have kicked things back into the correct order, at least for now. Whether or not the fix remains working remains to be seen.

Both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 have made remarkable scientific discoveries in their time flying through the cosmos. In fact, some of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2’s views of the outer planets in our solar system are the only images we still have to rely on today. As their trajectory continues to take them further from the Sun and Earth, communicating with them will only become more difficult.

If this kind of issue were to happen again, it’s unclear if NASA would be able to keep the probes running and get them fixed again. At least, for now, we can rest easy knowing that a Voyager 1 fix has worked out, and we can cross our fingers that Voyager 1 starts spitting out useable scientific data again soon, too.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.