Watch this Space: Voyager 1 goes ‘senile’ and the interstellar object lie | Technology News | Space

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NASA’s Voyager 1 has been travelling in space for nearly 50 years and in that time, it became the first spacecraft to go into interstellar space and continues to be the man-made object farthest from the Earth. But since last November, it has been sending back nothing but “incoherent” data back to mission controllers, raising serious concerns about whether its time has ended.

Voyager 1’s demise would not be as much of a scientific loss as it would be an emotional one. For the scientific community, what is happening right now is the equivalent of watching a really old relative go senile. The spacecraft seems to have already lost its bearings and what it says does not make much sense.

“It basically stopped talking to us in a coherent manner,” said Suzanne Dodd of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to NPR. Dodd has been the project manager for the Voyager interstellar mission since 2010.

Apart from being the first spacecraft to venture beyond the protective heliosphere of our Sun, it also helped make many important discoveries, including a thin ring around Jupiter, two new Jovian moons, five new Saturnian moons and a new ring for the planet called the G-ring.

Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were launched in the year 1977 to take advantage of a rare geometric alignment of the outer planets which allowed NASA to take a four-planet tour in a relatively short period of time with minimal fuel use. The layout of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune last seen in the 1970s and the 1980s lets a spacecraft on a special flight path swing from one planet to another without large onboard propulsion systems. The layout only happens about once in 175…

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