Where is Voyager 1 now? Repairs bring space probe back online as journey nears 50 years

After many months of extremely long-distance repairs, NASA’s Voyager 1 space probe is fully operational once again.

“The spacecraft has resumed gathering information about interstellar space,” the agency announced last Thursday, and has resumed its normal operations.

The spacecraft, now travelling through interstellar space more than 15 billion miles from Earth, began sending back corrupted science and engineering data last November.

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.

Over the ensuing months, engineers worked to troubleshoot the problem, a tedious and complicated process given the vast distance between Earth and Voyager 1. Each message took 22.5 hours to transmit, meaning each communication between engineers and the spacecraft was a nearly two day long process.

By April, NASA engineers had traced to root of the problem to a single chip in Voyager 1’s Flight Data System, allowing them to begin rearranging lines of computer code so that the spacecraft could continue transmitting data. Last month, NASA announced that it had restored functionality to two of the spacecraft’s science instruments, followed by the announcement last week that Voyager 1 had been fully restored to normal operations.

Voyager 1: Still traveling 1 million miles per day

Launched in 1977 along with its sister craft Voyager 2, the twin craft are robotic space probes that are now the longest operating spacecraft in history. Their initial mission was to study the outer planets of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, but they have continued their long journey in the ensuing decades, travelling farther and wider than any other man-made object in history.

In 1990, Voyager 1 transmitted the famous “Pale Blue Dot” photograph of Earth, taken when the spacecraft was 3.7 billion miles from the Sun.

By 2012, Voyager 1 became the first spacecraft to enter interstellar space, where they have continued transmit data on plasma waves, magnetic fields and particles in the heliosphere – the outermost region of space directly influenced by the Sun.

As part of their one-way mission, both Voyager spacecraft also carry copies of the “Golden Records,” gold plated copper discs containing sounds and images from Earth that were curated by the astronomer Carl Sagan.

Currently travelling roughly one million miles per day, Voyager 1 will continue it journey until at least early next year, when NASA estimates that diminishing power levels may “prevent further operation.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NASA's Voyager 1 location, activity restored after major malfunction