Scientists Rescue Voyager 2 Probe on Edge of Solar System

From Daily Tech:

Reset of memory turns out to be just what the computer doctor ordered

An error in Voyager 2's memory threatened its mission on the edge of the solar system. The 33-year old probe has since been successfully fixed. (Source: NASA)

Voyager 2 was launched 33 years ago and currently remains on course, traveling out of the solar system.  It is currently 8.6 billion miles (13.8 billion km) from Earth, passing through the heliosphere, a magnetic bubble that surrounds our solar system.  It continues to transmit data, even as it passes through this volatile region.

However, three weeks ago the probe started transmitting garbled messages to Earth.  NASA program administrators put the spacecraft in an engineering mode, restricting it to only sending health updates to Earth, while they diagnosed the issue.

NASA’s Voyager 2 project manager Ed Massey comments, “In some spacecraft that are closer to the sun one could think of single event upsets caused by solar activity. But we’re so far away, it’s hard to say that’s what caused it.  We’re like 93, 94 AU out.”

The command to reset the probe was set on May 19, and by May 22 the probe was back in action talking to Earth in its usual fashion.

Read the full story here.

h/t dbs mod

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53 thoughts on “Scientists Rescue Voyager 2 Probe on Edge of Solar System

  1. Smokey says:
    June 12, 2010 at 2:12 pm
    I’ve been waiting for an appropriate article to post this interesting interactive site.
    Thank you. Verrrry Interesting!

  2. Good to see the sturdy little fellow get a third wind . I would love to see some action in the Kuiper Belt.

  3. Comment on the Daily Tech blog of the above article:
    ‘quote:
    It’s odd that they don’t mention cosmic rays
    they have stated they are not sure yet what caused the glitch. A statement from a real scientist.
    Now, if they were climate “scientists” they would have stated as fact that it was the worst possible outcome and that they “know” it is so because their computer models said so. ‘
    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Smokey says:
    June 12, 2010 at 2:12 pm
    I’ve been waiting for an appropriate article to post this interesting interactive site.
    ================================
    Nice link, thanks.

  5. I was told that the “Golden Record” on the Voyager was fabricated at the Prototype Shop at Kennedy Space Center.

  6. Now, this is what engineering is all about! We’ve been to the Moon 40 years ago, we can fix a Voyager so far away, but we can’t plug a hole in the bottom of the sea… Are there two types of engineers? The new and the old ones?
    Ecotretas

  7. This craft has traveled not only 93 AU in space but 33 Earth years in time. 1967! Were there people then?

  8. Maybe some alien race tried to send it a message, and fouled it up.
    At least it didn’t report back as Nomad.

  9. Reboot.
    Hmmmm, is it running an early version of Windoze?
    Yeah, I know it isn’t but just couldn’t resist.
    Excellent news. This will let it keep working till the Klingons to blast it out of space for target practice as they will for Pioneer 10 (the probe wasn’t so long-lasting in its first and only movie role, Star Trek V: the Final Frontier. A trigger-happy Klingon named Captain Klaa blasted Pioneer 10 to smithereens for target practice.)
    {:)}
    Oh, depending on Voyager’s velocity it may be experiencing time dilation effects and while it may have traveled 33 Earth years in time it may not be that old. Anyone care to do the computations for the jump to light speed?

  10. At its current speed, Veeger 2 will take over 96,000 years to reach the next nearest star. Hopefully by then, we will have a little better knowledge of our climate here on Earth.

  11. John Blake says:
    June 12, 2010 at 3:01 pm
    This craft has traveled not only 93 AU in space but 33 Earth years in time. 1967! Were there people then?
    ****************************************************************************
    I’m not certain, but no one was worrying about climate change then.

  12. Good news.
    NASA doing what NASA is supposed to be doing, that is.
    Now, about that politically-inpired sight-seeing tour on a ship north of Alaska to generate advertising for an ice melt in the Arctic ….

  13. Good to know V … GER will still be around when Kirk and Spock show up.
    Cool link, Smokey. Thanks

  14. Space anyone?, Electrical field?…come on! that´s not possible in a pebbles gravitational universe!

  15. A remote reset at a distance measured in Astronomical Units. Why can’t all IT help desks be this good?

  16. It is extraordinary that in not much more than a hundred years we have gone from a short powered flight of 36 metres to sending space craft to every planet in our solar system and beyond to the boundary of outer space and our solar system. Amongst the many acheivments, We have put 12 men on the moon spread over 6 missions. 2 robot vehicles have been exploring the surface of Mars continuoulsy for 6 years (well beyond expectation). We have a satelite orbiting Saturn taking extraordinary photos of the giant planet and it’s rings and it’s many strange and exotic moons. Meanwhile we have the Hubble space telescope that brought us the 1st high definition photos of distant stars and Galaxies. And then there is the Space Shuttles that in spite of 2 dreadful disasters, it is still incredible that it can take 7 astronauts and a large payload into orbit and then come back to Earth and land just like a plane.
    I think it is interesting that all this, and much more has been acheived by the much maligned ‘government sponsored scientist’, and the brand name that is on most of the above, from the one in orbit around Mecury to the 2 just leaving the Heliosphere, is NASA.
    Is the achievement of all those scientists not really that good because they are ‘government’ and is that achievement even less so because of the opinions of a single man; James Hansen?

  17. John Blake
    Do you remember what computers were like in 1977?
    I can’t imagine that it is still operating! My great respect to the engineers who built it.

  18. I definitely remember when this was built and launched.
    The loonies were screaming that the New Ice Ages were going to freeze us solid,
    and the increasing human population of the Earth was going to put us into food wars,
    water wars and we’d be stacked like cordwood by the end of the century.
    Oh, and Peak Oil had happened so we’d all be walking everywhere and freezing to death
    by the millions as all the gas would run out by 1995.

  19. Keith W. says:
    June 12, 2010 at 4:04 pm
    John Blake says:
    June 12, 2010 at 3:01 pm
    This craft has traveled not only 93 AU in space but 33 Earth years in time. 1967! Were there people then?
    **************************
    I’m not certain, but no one was worrying about climate change then.

    There’s always been worry about ‘climate change’ it just depends on the fad of the day :o)
    1895 – 2008 and counting…
    and 4 year later
    1971 NASA predicted ice age

  20. Reply to Smokey:
    What makes anyone think that this is any more “REAL” than the virtual reality of Climate Change?
    The BIG BANG universe is nothing more than mathematical assumption built on mathematical and is no more reality than the virtual reality of Climate modelling.
    Climatology wrote the book on scientific propaganda. How else do you thing they could attract BILLIONS of dollars to hunt for chimera such as gravity waves, black holes, dark matter, dark energy, God particles ad infinitum.
    Taxpayers money being spent in the vain search for things that can’t be seen or even defined nor understood unless you are “in the club” of tenured mathemagicians.
    “We can’t find or even define what we are looking for but our calculations just can’t be wrong. Trust us we’re professors and PhD of mathematics.”
    Sound familar.

  21. they have stated they are not sure yet what caused the glitch. A statement from a real scientist.
    The Voyager spacecraft use iron core memory, you know the little iron doughnuts that have two wires running orthoganolly though them. Nothing like silicon memory. If it was a cosmic ray that flipped a bit it was a damn strong one.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyager_program

  22. If you look out to the right you will see Voyager 2 as we do a lazy pass by…
    They built a craft that’s about as technological advanced as an abacus compared to a modern scientific calculator, and it’s still going strong.
    Had they built it last year, it’d probably not have lasted for 3.7 years even, due to insurance and administrative reasons and risk assessment, oh and of course green tech reasons.

  23. Interesting … it appears the ‘computer’ aboard Voyager 2 is an actual microprocessor, an design RCA COSMAC (CMOS) design, an RCA 1802 (an 8-bit uC) to be specific.
    Excerpt from wikipedia, about 1/3 the way down the page – Microprocessor:

    A seminal microprocessor in the world of spaceflight was RCA’s RCA 1802 (aka CDP1802, RCA COSMAC) (introduced in 1976), which was used in NASA’s Voyager and Viking spaceprobes of the 1970s, and onboard the Galileo probe to Jupiter (launched 1989, arrived 1995). RCA COSMAC was the first to implement CMOS technology. The CDP1802 was used because it could be run at very low power, and because its production process (Silicon on Sapphire) ensured much better protection against cosmic radiation and electrostatic discharges than that of any other processor of the era. Thus, the 1802 is said to be the first radiation-hardened microprocessor.
    The RCA 1802 had what is called a static design, meaning that the clock frequency could be made arbitrarily low, even to 0 Hz, a total stop condition. This let the Voyager/Viking/Galileo spacecraft use minimum electric power for long uneventful stretches of a voyage. Timers and/or sensors would awaken/improve the performance of the processor in time for important tasks, such as navigation updates, attitude control, data acquisition, and radio communication.

  24. … while at this website they contend not an RCA COSMAC 1802 uP:

    The computer command subsystem (CCS) provides sequencing and control functions. The CCS contains fixed routines such as command decoding and fault detection and corrective routines, antenna pointing information, and spacecraft sequencing information. The computer is an improved version of that used in the Viking orbiter.[4] It is widely reported on the web, often citing earlier revisions of this article, that the Voyager spacecraft were controlled by a version of the RCA CDP1802 “COSMAC” microprocessor, but such claims are not substantiated by primary references. The CDP1802 was, however, used in the later Galileo spacecraft.

  25. A little more authoritative ‘source’ of info on voyager’s three computers at history.nasa.gov / computers / Ch6-2.html :

    – Chapter Six –
    – Distributed Computing On Board Voyager and Galileo –
    Voyager – The flying computer center

    It appears there are ‘stuck bits’ in various memories already, and they are worked around by the ‘uploaded’ software from Mission Control … also, it appears the Viking computer architecture was adopted for the Voyager series.
    A couple short excerpts:

    Voyager employs three dual-redundant computer systems per spacecraft. The first, the CCS, is nearly identical to that flown on Viking, performing sequencing and spacecraft health functions along with new ones necessitated by the addition of the other computers. Telemetry data formatting and transmission handled by the Flight Data System are done on Voyager with the help of a custom-built computer. Attitude control and articulation of the scan platform are accomplished with the third computer system.

    Part of the reason why the more complex Voyager spacecraft could be controlled by a computer with the same size memory as Viking is the ability to change software loads. In-flight reprogramming, begun when the programmable sequencers flew on Mariners, and brought to a state of high quality on Mariner X, was a nearly routine task by the time of Voyager’s launch in 1977. Both the CCS and Flight Data System computer have been reprogrammed extensively. No less than 18 loads were uplinked to Voyager l during its Jupiter encounter.
    … CCS programmers are studying ways to use some bit positions in a failed Flight Data System memory to compensate for the shortened memory in their system. A readout register in the Flight Data System has a failed bit, giving the impression that the entire memory has a one stored in that position in each word. Remaining “good” areas may be assigned to the use of the CCS.

    .
    .

  26. Dennis Wingo June 12, 2010 at 6:50 pm :
    The Voyager spacecraft use iron core memory, you know the little iron doughnuts that have two wires running orthoganolly though them.

    Three actually, X, Y and a sense wire … half currents through either X or Y will _not_ address a particular core *while* the intersection of X and Y which gives full current (and full magnetic field) and possibly causes a polarity change in the core and a possible ‘pulse’ (if the core polarity changes due to the full current, half in the X wire and half in the Y wire and the magnetic polarity in the core changes there is a pulse) in the sense wire …
    .

  27. Well using this web site General Relativity Time Dilation Calculator (http://www.1728.com/reltivty.htm) I made the calculations for the jump to light speed, and the time dilation effect of Voyager 1 which is moving at ~62,000 kilometers per hour (http://www.physorg.com/news8817.html) is about:
    When Traveling At A Velocity Of 62000 kilometers per hour OR 17.2222 Kilometers Per Second OR 10.701378944007326 Miles Per Second OR 0.000057447075603216146 Light Speed, Then the Relativistic Change Factor = 1.0000000016500834.
    This is about doulble typical orbital time dilation effects.
    “Velocities in ordinary life which to us might seem incredibly fast have only a miniscule relativistic effect. For example, orbital velocity (5 miles per second) produces a relativistic factor of change of only 1.000000000360219.”
    So it’s about double the GPS time dilation. Not too significant, it seems.
    “What does this factor mean though? If you were in a spaceship travelling at .9 times the speed of light:
    1) the ship’s mass (and you) would increase by a factor of 2.294
    2) the ship (and you) would contract in the direction of travel by 2.294, meaning a 300 foot ship would shrink to 130.77 feet.
    3) Perhaps the most interesting change is that 1 year to you would seem to be 2.294 years for someone back on Earth.”
    We’ll just have to learn how to kick it up a notch if we ever hope to escape the conjectured doomsday of the climate change soothsayers!
    Or we could just merge with V…GER! (Star Trek: The Motion Picture).

  28. I think it’s a shame that the name NASA has been tarnished by association with Hansen et al. What a brilliant feat of engineering and calculation. Let these people come to the fore again and reclaim the NASA brand.

  29. Gneiss [sp] is a form of volcanic rock. Down here in the South USA we have a bird called the rockbird. It rarely comes to my birdfeeder since it usually eats carrion. It is characrized by a featherless bald gray head which looks like a rounded rock. I suspect our Gneiss is a rockbird.

  30. Enneagram says:
    June 12, 2010 at 4:29 pm
    Read this, and you’ll understand:
    http://www.holoscience.com/news/mystery_solved.html

    Interesting. Thanks.
    For today’s edition of Find the NASA mistake, take a look at the last diagram on that page.
    Yeah I know the image isn’t hosted at NASA, I’m just assuming the footer is accurate: ‘Images courtesy of NASA’. Also note the page is dated 20 March 2002. That is a long time for someone not to notice something that obvious.
    If they hadn’t blown countless taxpayer dollars employing Hansen & Schmidt and funding their warming cult, perhaps we could have had instead that many V’gers.

  31. LL says : Global Warming might fall into this:
    ‘No set of mutually inconsistent observations can exist for which some human intellect cannot conceive a coherent explanation, however complicated.’

    Which can easily be proved by pointing out that we could be ‘living’ in a virtual reality with some glitches in the programming. QED

  32. Steven Skinner says, “Is the achievement of all those scientists not really that good because they are ‘government’ and is that achievement even less so because of the opinions of a single man; James Hansen?”
    The question is simply this; where are those “government scientists” in railroading Dr. Hansen into scientific and historical obscurity? The man has proven himself to be a fraud on more than one occurrence. I would postulate that Hansen being at the top of the scientific pile at NASA can do a lot of damage to those at the bottom of the pile. I would also postulate that those at the bottom of the pile hoping to one day arrive at the top of the pile can see the same thing happening to them in the event that they succumb to the temptations of political agenda as has Dr. Hansen.
    The afforementioned being the percieved problem, how to correct the problem. I have no idea. I would assume that in the evoloution of science as a human activity there must eventually be developed a mechanism by which apparent truth is derived and untruth discarded and practicioners of delibertate deciet are identified and expelled from the community. This is the problem, practicioners of deliberate deciet aren’t being expelled from the community and the community as a whole is losing credibility with the community at large.

  33. Enneagram, the links you gave are very interesting. The concept sounds plausible and I found no obvious counter arguments.
    Unfortunately, I’m not qualified to make some calculations.

  34. Enneagram says:
    June 12, 2010 at 4:22 pm
    Space anyone?, Electrical field?…come on! that´s not possible in a pebbles gravitational universe!
    […]
    Read this, and you´ll understand

    Amazing that people can be taken in by such nonsense.

  35. Leif Svalgaard says:

    Amazing that people can be taken in by such nonsense.

    Well, not taken in but compared to AGW where the nonsense ist obvious…
    Seems I have some work in the queue.

  36. Stephen Skinner says:
    June 12, 2010 at 4:45 pm
    “It is extraordinary that in not much more than a hundred years we have gone from a short powered flight of 36 metres to sending space craft to every planet in our solar system and beyond to the boundary of outer space and our solar system….”
    My grandfather rode in the last calvary charge of WWI, and his son my beloved uncle, who just passed away, as a boy would ploy the fields of their small European farm with buffalo.
    It is the addition of the human element that truly shows how far we have come in such a short time.
    Rich D.

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