Home Science Faulty chip may be clue to Voyager 1 computer fix

Faulty chip may be clue to Voyager 1 computer fix

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Faulty chip may be clue to Voyager 1 computer fix

NASA engineers have narrowed down the problem with the Voyager 1 deep space probe to a single faulty chip. It may now be possible to work around the corrupted memory and return the 47-year old interstellar spacecraft to an operational condition.

Since November, NASA has been trying to repair the Voyager 1 probe, which has been sending back gibberish instead of science and engineering data. It’s hard enough trying to fix a piece of technology that dates back to the time of paper tape memories. It’s downright frustrating when it’s over 15 billion miles (24 billion km) from Earth and it takes two days to get a reply to any signals sent to it.

Then came the breakthrough on March 1, when one of a long string of commands was sent trying to get a response from Voyager 1. Two days later, a string of gibberish came back to Mission Control, only it was different gibberish that one engineer at NASA’s Deep Space Network recognized and was able to decode.

This turned out to be a dump of the onboard computer’s complete memory that gave NASA engineers vital clues to the problem and the hope of solving it. It was already known that the trouble was in the Flight Data Subsystem (FDS), which controls packaging data for transmission to Earth. Now, the fault has been narrowed down to a particular chip that may have failed due to old age or being struck by a cosmic ray particle.

It’s now hoped that sometime in the coming weeks or months a way might be found to bypass the chip. If so, then Voyager 1 can return to work until its nuclear power source fails completely sometime in the next few years.

Source: NASA



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