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NASA fixes all 4 Voyager 1 instruments

NASA has confirmed that it has fixed all four science instruments on Voyager 1 after the spacecraft encountered problems in November.

The probe communicates by sending binary code back to Earth but had switched to sending unintelligible data.

“We’d gone from having a conversation with Voyager, with the 1s and 0s containing science data, to just a dial tone,” NASA previously explained.

However, controllers identified the issue was located within the flight data subsystem, which effectively packages the data so it can speak to researchers.


The team found a workaround that switched the code to a new location, enabling them to bring two of the four instruments online in April and finally all four now.

The painstaking mission was complicated by the spacecraft’s location more than 24 billion kilo­metres away from Earth, meaning each command took 23 hours to reach the probe.

“While Voyager 1 is back to conducting science, additional minor work is needed,” said NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“Among other tasks, engineers will resynchronise timekeeping software in the spacecraft’s three onboard computers so they can execute commands at the right time.


“The team will also perform maintenance on the digital tape recorder, which records some data for the plasma wave instrument that is sent to Earth twice per year.”

Voyager 1 was launched 16 days after its twin, Voyager 2, in 1977.

The pair took different trajectories, which meant Voyager 2 took longer to reach the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn but allowed for further encounters with Uranus and Neptune.

On 25 August 2012, Voyager 1 became the first human-made object to leave the solar system, in a milestone moment for space exploration.

The news comes after NASA similarly lost all contact with Voyager 2 in July 2023 when its teams sent the spacecraft an incorrect command that tilted its antenna away from Earth, severing contact.

It was brought back online the next month after staff sent it an “interstellar shout” using the “highest-power transmitter”.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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