PASADENA, Calif., May 10 (UPI) — U.S. space agency engineers say they have shifted the Voyager 2 spacecraft into status data mode while they diagnose a problem with its data formatting.
Officials said status data suggest the spacecraft is healthy, but the source of the issue is a system that formats data to send back to Earth. The change in the return pattern has prevented mission managers from decoding science data.
Space agency scientists said the troubleshooting process is made difficult since it takes nearly 13 hours for signals to reach the spacecraft and nearly 13 hours for signals from Voyager 2 to reach NASA’s Deep Space Network on Earth.
The spacecraft was launched in August 1977, about two weeks before its twin spacecraft, Voyager 1. The two spacecraft are the most distant human-made objects, both now at the edge of the heliosphere — the bubble the sun creates around the solar system. NASA says it expects Voyager 1 to leave the solar system and enter interstellar space during the next five years or so, followed shortly thereafter by Voyager 2.
“Voyager 2′s initial mission was a four-year journey to Saturn, but it is still returning data 33 years later,” said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Voyager 2 is now about 8.6 billion miles from Earth.
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