The engineering team operating the Voyager 1 spacecraft — NASA’s robotic planetary explorer currently zooming through interstellar space — is trying to figure out why the spacecraft is sending back data readouts that don’t match what the vehicle is actually doing. It’s a mystery that does not seem to be putting the Voyager 1 spacecraft in any immediate jeopardy, but NASA is trying to figure it out nonetheless.

Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 has been exploring the cosmos for nearly half a century. It has a twin, Voyager 2, that was launched 16 days prior in the same year. Both spacecraft did tours of the outer Solar System, flying by planets and photographing moons before eventually traveling outside the boundary of our cosmic neighborhood. In 2012, Voyager 1 passed the heliopause — the boundary where the Sun’s solar wind ends and the interstellar medium begins. At a distance of 14.5 billion miles from Earth, Voyager 1 is the farthest human-made object in space.

But the farther Voyager 1 gets from Earth, the likelihood for weird things to happen with the spacecraft goes up. Right now, the spacecraft’s attitude articulation and control system, or AACS, is acting up. It’s the system that’s responsible for maintaining the vehicle’s orientation in space as well as pointing the probe’s high-gain antenna, which is used to send and receive signals from…



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