NASA Identifies Glitch Fouling Voyager 2 Communications (Hint: It Wasn’t Aliens)

On closer inspection, it seems that the Romulans haven’t hijacked Voyager 2 after all. NASA has identified the problem that caused the space probe — which is currently coasting somewhere 8 to 10 billion miles from Earth — to start returning distorted patterns of data last month. Evidently a single memory bit in the memory of an onboard computer flipped from a zero to a one, a problem the space agency intends to fix tomorrow.

The strange, jumbled science data that began coming back from Voyager 2 on April 22 temporarily stumped mission managers, leading to a wave of speculation as to what could be happening to the probe, which along with its counterpart Voyager 1 is the most distant human made object in space. Among the more popular theories: Voyager 2 was hijacked by aliens, who in turn were using the spacecraft to try to contact Earth.

At the time the problem surfaced, mission handlers switched the probe into a mode that only transmits vehicle health data, so scientists have lost several weeks’ worth of date in the interim. But when NASA flips the bit back tomorrow, the science data should begin streaming once again.

The Voyager probes were launched about two weeks apart in 1977. Voyager 2 was initially supposed to make a four-year sojourn to Saturn, but 33 years later it is still beaming back data from the far reaches of the solar system. Data, but no alien transmissions, at least not yet. But just in case it does run into someone out there, Voyager 2 carries a disk with greetings in more than 50 languages.