1970s-era spacecraft more than 23 billion kms away repaired by NASA from Earth


Voyager 1 spacecraft – a 45-year-old spaceship investigating the cosmos outside the solar system – raises alarm bells in NASA. After leaving the heliosphere in 2012 – the border where the sun’s impact ends – the Voyager-1 spacecraft has been in interstellar space for over a decade. This spaceship left Earth in September 1977 and has travelled around 23.5 billion kilometres from us. However, this long distance didn’t stop NASA’s scientists from doing a repair job on the Voyager 1.

While the Voyager 1 was behaving normally, the spacecraft’s Attitude Articulation and Control System (AACS), which’s supposed to keep the antenna facing the Earth, started sending weird and garbled information about its activity and health to mission controllers. Engineers have resolved the issue causing the problem in Voyager 1 after months of accessing and analysing the probe’s systems.

Scientists discovered that the spaceship had started broadcasting data using an onboard computer that might have malfunctioned years before. Voyager 1 took instructions from the NASA team to return to the proper communications computer.

Engineers tried a low-risk workaround and instructed the AACS to resume transmitting the information to the correct computer after determining the problem on the probe, which takes 21 hours, 45 minutes, and 45 seconds to send and the same amount of time to receive data from Earth.

“We’re happy to have the telemetry back. We’ll do a full memory readout of the AACS and look at everything it’s been doing. That will help us try to diagnose the problem that caused the telemetry issue in the first place. We’re cautiously optimistic, but we still have more investigation to do”, said Voyager’s project manager, Suzanne Dodd.

While engineers don’t yet know why the AACS started sending telemetry data to the wrong computer, they believe – according to NASA – that it did so after receiving a lousy command from another onboard computer. Nevertheless, the Voyager 1 team is confident that the spacecraft’s long-term safety is not in danger.


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