Science & Tech

NASA spacecraft is transmitting mysterious 'gibberish' from outside our solar system

NASA spacecraft is transmitting mysterious 'gibberish' from outside our solar system
Voyager 1: Earth's farthest spacecraft
Corr - Cosmic Revolution / VideoElephant

NASA engineers have finally got to the bottom of why its Voyager 1 craft is emitting a stream of garbled nonsense.

The space probe was launched by NASA on 5 September 1977 as part of the space agency’s mission to explore the outer Solar System. It is one of two Voyager probes that were sent to space with artefacts of Earth onboard and is now 15 billion miles (24 billion kilometres) from Earth.

As it drifts further from us, the Voyager 1 spacecraft sends regular radio signals. But, since November, it has been emitting a stream of gibberish back to Earth that is completely unreadable and experts now think they know why.

In March, engineers sent what is known as a “poke” to the probe to get information from its flight data subsystem (FDS). From its response, they concluded that the likely problem is that the memory of the FDS has been corrupted.

NASA explained the situation in a blog post, writing: “The team suspects that a single chip responsible for storing part of the affected portion of the FDS memory isn’t working. Engineers can’t determine with certainty what caused the issue.

“Two possibilities are that the chip could have been hit by an energetic particle from space or that it simply may have worn out after 46 years.”

The solution could take months to implement, however, engineers believe they are able to run the FDS without the damaged chip. Once it is working, it is hoped the Voyager 1 will once again be able to send its regular radio signals, from outside our solar system, that are actually readable.

Sign up for our free indy100 weekly newsletter

How to join the indy100's free WhatsApp channel

Have your say in our news democracy. Click the upvote icon at the top of the page to help raise this article through the indy100 ranking

The Conversation (0)