Voyager 1 Deep Space Probe May be Dying

Mar 19, 2024

Voyager 1 (V1), the first human-made spacecraft to venture beyond our solar system — farther than none has traveled before — may have gone dark for good.  

The 46-year-old probe was hauling, in effect, a message in a bottle to any advanced alien lifeforms that might find it. The spacecraft stopped sending real data back to Earth in November. Scientists are unsure if they can fix the problem.  

"It basically stopped talking to us in a (clear) manner," Suzanne Dodd, Voyager's project manager at NASA, told NPR.  She said it's a grave problem.  

The spacecraft has stopped sending data in code that NASA can then translate. Instead it's spitting out nonsense, ones and zeros in a loop. NASA says the problem results from a seeming flight data system glitch. A sister spacecraft, Voyager 2 (V2), is still up and running. But it is also aging. And it lacks some of the research skills of V1. V2 is currently 12 billion miles from Earth. That's 3 billion miles closer than V1.   

If V1 fails, scientists can take comfort in knowing that it has far surpassed its original five-year expiration date. The craft was first meant to perform studies of Jupiter, Saturn, and some of their moons. It went on to observe all of the solar system’s large outer planets and 48 of their moons. 

In 1990, the craft took what would become an epic photo of Earth at a distance of 6 billion miles away. The photo is called “pale blue dot.” It's widely considered a vivid example of humanity’s tiny place in the cosmos.    

Even if scientists can’t bring Voyager back, it still carries recordings of sounds, images, music, and greetings that perhaps one day alien beings might find.  

Reflect: If you were responsible for crafting the world’s first message to an alien civilization, what would you say?

GIF of Voyager animation courtesy @nasa on GIPHY.

What is the author’s purpose in writing this article about Voyager 1? (Common Core RI.5.6; RI.6.6)
a. to inform the reader about Voyager 1’s mission and its current status
b. to persuade readers to fund space exploration
c. to entertain with fictional stories about space
d. to argue for more space exploration in the next five years
For more formative assessments, visit to start a free trial.

News brought to you by The Juice

Start a free trial today