NASA has regained contact with Voyager 2 after losing it for a week

NASA has regained contact with Voyager 2 after losing it for a week

An artist’s impression of NASA’s Voyager spacecraft


On 21 July, NASA misplaced contact with the Voyager 2 spacecraft, which is sort of 20 billion kilometres away from Earth. Now, operators have heard from Voyager 2 once more – the spacecraft continues to be working, however they’re nonetheless struggling to regain full communication.

Voyager 2 launched in 1977 and has been hurtling in the direction of the outer edges of the photo voltaic system and into interstellar house since then. It’s now the second-most distant spacecraft from Earth after its sibling craft, Voyager 1, which is nearly 24 billion kilometres away. A number of of its science devices, together with its magnetometer and its cosmic ray detector, are nonetheless working 46 years after launch and sending information again to Earth.

Or they had been, at the very least, till 21 July, when a sequence of instructions from mission management inadvertently shifted the orientation of the spacecraft, pointing its antenna simply 2 levels away from Earth. That meant that the alerts from the spacecraft weren’t reaching satellite tv for pc dishes on the bottom, and operators couldn’t ship any alerts to attempt to flip it again in the direction of us.

Fortunately, they aren’t utterly at the hours of darkness. On 31 July, NASA detected a faint trace of what’s known as a “service sign” from Voyager 2. Usually, if the antenna was aligned correctly, this sign would comprise real-time information from the spacecraft, however as a result of it isn’t aligned the sign wasn’t sturdy sufficient to extract something from it.

“We see the ‘heartbeat’ sign from the spacecraft… so we all know the spacecraft is alive and working,” stated Suzanne Dodd, the supervisor of the Voyager mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, in a press release despatched to New Scientist. Whereas catching the sign was sudden, the truth that the spacecraft itself is ok wasn’t an enormous shock – it has been scudding alongside for 46 years, in any case.

But when something had been to go fallacious, we might haven’t any technique to ship any instructions to Voyager 2 whereas the antenna is pointed away from Earth. “We at the moment are producing a brand new command to aim to level the spacecraft antenna towards Earth,” stated Dodd. “There’s a low likelihood that this may work.”

Even when it doesn’t work, all will not be misplaced – Voyager 2 is programmed to routinely reset its orientation just a few instances a 12 months in case of conditions identical to this one. The following computerized reset might be on 15 October, and communication ought to resume then. Till then, the spacecraft’s operators will hold making an attempt to show it round and proceed to watch the heartbeat sign.


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