The 45-year-old NASA Voyager 1 spacecraft is a miracle. It travels outside our solar system and still keeps in touch with the Earth. But present to your team what NASA calls a “mystery.” Works fine, but sends back some weird telemetry data.

The problem is probably due to Voyager 1’s articulation and position control system (AACS), which handles its orientation in space, including the task of keeping its antenna pointed at Earth.

“All indications are that AACS is still working, but the telemetry data it returns is invalid. For example, the data may appear to be randomly generated or may not reflect any possible state in which AACS may be, “said NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. in a statement on Wednesday.

The data doesn’t make sense, but Voyager 1 maintains a clear line of communication with the home and the problem has not triggered a secure “safe mode”.

The Voyager 1 double spacecraft and Voyager 2 launched in the 70s of last century and have long exceeded life expectancy. Both are in interstellar space, which Voyager 1 and 2 project manager Susan Dodd describes as “a high-radiation environment in which no spacecraft has flown before.”

Voyager 1 is about 14.5 billion miles (23.3 billion kilometers) from home. It takes a few days to send a signal and then get a response, which adds to the challenge of finding out what’s going on. This leaves NASA with many unknowns. Is AACS the culprit or does another system have a problem? Will Voyager 1 be able to continue its scientific mission?

There are ways forward from this glitch. Voyager 1 can just live with it. Either software patching or switching to backup hardware may be the solution. NASA hopes both Voyagers will continue to send scientific data after 2025.

Dodd said: “Such a mystery is the norm for this course of the Voyager mission.