Science

NASA Voyager 2 suffers from technical problems in interstellar space

NASA Voyager 2 suffers from technical problems in interstellar space”

That triggered the spacecraft's fault protection software routine, which responds if it senses that Voyager 2 is consuming too much energy.

It's not often that a NASA mission is still up and running over four decades after launch, but the space agency's Voyager twins are anything but ordinary.

It has taken the team several days to assess the current situation primarily because of Voyager 2's distance from Earth - about 11.5 billion miles (18.5 billion kilometers). Besides the hazards of space itself, Voyager 2 has to deal with the decay of the radioactive material that provides power. That instrument has continued to operate, though.

Launched in 1977, both Voyager probes are now hurtling through interstellar space, making them the most distant man-made objects from Earth. Analysis of the telemetry from the spacecraft indicated that an unexplained delay in the onboard execution of the maneuver commands inadvertently left two systems that consume relatively high levels of power operating at the same time. The onboard software made a decision to offset this power deficit by shutting down the five scientific instruments still working. Until January 28, however, they still aren't collecting data from the spacecraft, and engineers have to work harder to restore normal operation. The probe's fault protection system triggered the shutdown of the spacecraft's scientific instruments to save electricity. It remains the only spacecraft to visit both Saturn and Neptune, which kept it from reaching the interstellar medium until 2018. For example, they disabled the heater on the cosmic ray subsystem instrument to save power. The probe seemed to turn off its scientific instruments to compensate for overdraft. Engineers did the same thing with thrusters on Voyager 1 in 2017.

Can NASA save the Voyager 2 probe?

That instrument dropped to minus 74 degrees Fahrenheit, but it's still sending back data.

According to the United States space agency, initial analysis of the spacecraft's failure suggests the probe has overdrawn its power reserves.

Last fall, scientists confirmed that Voyager 2 had broken through the wall of hydrogen at the edge of the solar system and was speeding through interstellar space. Even with communication at the speed of light, engineers have to wait 17 hours to receive info and another 17 beyond that to verify that a command was successful.

In respect to the Sun, Voyager 2 is now flying through space at breakneck speeds of about 34,390mph.



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