NASA engineers are scratching their heads over the funky data that the Voyager 1 spacecraft is sending back.

The orientation of the 1970s-era space probe appears to have been randomly generated or not at all.

The onboard equipment that measures, reports, and changes the position of the vehicle in space is the problematic data. The system keeps an antenna pointed at Earth, which allows it to send data home.

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The future of the long-duration mission is in question due to the new bizarre situation. The data from the science instruments doesn't make sense, but the controls are still working, according to the U.S. space agency. It seems to be functioning normally.

Suzanne Dodd, project manager for the Voyager 1 and 2 mission, said in a NASA statement that a mystery like this is par for the course.

"A mystery like this is sort of par for the course at this stage of the Voyager mission."

The original life expectancy for both Voyager 1 and 2 is almost 45 years old. She said that there are almost expected to be surprises in interstellar space because it is a high-radiation environment.

It is close to Earth. Light takes 20 hours and 33 minutes to travel that distance. It takes about two days for a message to be received by Voyager.

Dodd said that there were some big challenges for the engineering team.

Engineers testing Voyager 2

Voyager 1 has been exploring the solar system since 1977, along with its counterpart, Voyager 2. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The solar system has been explored by both Voyager 1 and 2. They were supposed to study Jupiter and the moons. The two-planet mission was built to last five years.

Engineers doubled the objectives to include two more giant planets with their initial success. Four planets, 48 moons, and a host of planetary magnetic fields and rings have been explored.

The number of systems they can operate is limited by the amount of power generated. The equipment has been turned off. There are no science instruments that have been powered down yet. NASA has a goal to keep the Voyagers running.