Contact restored with NASA’s Voyager 1 space probe

Contact restored.

That was the message relieved NASA officials shared after the agency regained full contact with the Voyager 1 space probe, the most distant human-made object in the universe, scientists have announced.

For the first time since November, the spacecraft is returning usable data about the health and status of its onboard engineering systems, NASA said in a news release Monday.

The 46-year-old pioneering probe, now 15.1 billion miles from Earth, has continually defied expectations for its life span as it ventures farther into the uncharted territory of the cosmos.

More: Voyager 1 is 15 billion miles from home and broken. Here's how NASA is trying to fix it.

NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft is depicted in this artist’s conception traveling through interstellar space, which it entered in 2012.
NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft is depicted in this artist’s conception traveling through interstellar space, which it entered in 2012.

Computer experts to the rescue

It wasn't as easy as hitting Control-Alt-Delete, but top experts at NASA and CalTech were able to fix the balky, ancient computer on board the probe that was causing the communication breakdown – at least for now.

A computer problem aboard Voyager 1 on Nov. 14, 2023, corrupted the stream of science and engineering data the craft sent to Earth, making it unreadable.

Although the radio signal from the spacecraft had never ceased its connection to ground control operators on Earth, that signal had not carried any usable data since November, NASA said. After some serious sleuthing to fix the onboard computer, that changed on April 20, when NASA finally received usable data.

In interstellar space

The probe and its twin, Voyager 2, are the only spacecraft to ever fly in interstellar space (the space between the stars).

Voyager 2 continues to operate normally, NASA reports. Launched more than 46 years ago, the twin spacecraft are standouts on two fronts: they've operated the longest and traveled the farthest of any spacecraft ever.

Before the start of their interstellar exploration, both probes flew by Saturn and Jupiter, and Voyager 2 flew by Uranus and Neptune.

More: NASA gave Voyager 1 a 'poke' amid communication woes. Here's why the response was encouraging.

They were designed to last five years but have become the longest-operating spacecraft in history. Both carry gold-plated copper discs containing sounds and images from Earth, content that was chosen by a team headed by celebrity astronomer Carl Sagan.

For perspective, it was the summer of 1977 when the Voyager probes left Earth. "Star Wars" was No. 1 at the box office, Jimmy Carter was in the first year of his presidency, and Elvis Presley had just died.

Contributing: Eric Lagatta and George Petras

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Voyager 1: Contact restored with distant space probe, NASA says