NASA Just Sent a Software Update to a Spacecraft 12 Billion Miles Away

Voyager 2, currently over 12 billion miles distant from Earth, continues its trek across interstellar space. Over its nearly five-decade voyage, this probe has witnessed corners of the cosmos far beyond our reach.

Recently, NASA successfully executed an essential software enhancement for Voyager 2, aiming to prolong its operational lifespan. This software enhancement, which required almost 18 hours for transmission, was designed to prevent Voyager 2 from encountering the same malfunction that plagued its counterpart, Voyager 1, the previous year.

In 2022, NASA disclosed anomalies in the data from Voyager 1’s AACS (attitude articular and control system). The telemetry readings were perplexing, leading to fears that the probe might have been irretrievably lost.

Fortuitously, Voyager 1 seems unaffected in the long run. However, to circumvent similar challenges with Voyager 2, NASA dispatched this comprehensive software revision. Viewed as a protective measure, this modification aims to safeguard the probe for upcoming interstellar journeys.

Given the immense distance separating the probe from Earth, the information it relays back is of unparalleled significance. Due to the extended transmission time, NASA experts are currently assessing the AACS memory to confirm its compatibility with the update.

Barring complications, the software enhancement for Voyager 2 is scheduled for October 28. Given a brief communication lapse with Voyager 2 earlier this year, there’s palpable anticipation surrounding this procedure. NASA intends to utilize Voyager 2 as the pilot for this software revision.

If outcomes are favorable, the space agency will forward the update to Voyager 1, positioned over 15 billion miles from our planet, making its data even more precious. NASA has also decided to permit extended rotations for both probes before realigning them.

This strategy aims to mitigate propellant residue accumulation within their fuel conduits. Ultimately, the goal is to equip both probes with the update, ensuring their operational integrity for many more years, and minimizing concerns about potential system failures.