Voyager 2 Spacecraft’s Signal Detected By NASA After Accidental Contact Loss
Good news from the far reaches of space: NASA has once again heard from Voyager 2, a spacecraft exploring interstellar space billions of miles away from us.
The communication comes after an unexpected two-week silence caused by an incorrect command that inadvertently tilted the spacecraft’s antenna away from Earth.
You can imagine the relief at NASA’s Deep Space Network when they picked up a “heartbeat signal” from the 46-year-old spacecraft. It was a sure sign that Voyager 2 was still alive and functioning. In an email on Tuesday, project manager Suzanne Dodd expressed how this news had “buoyed our spirits.”
But the task isn’t over. The team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California now faces the challenge of turning Voyager 2’s antenna back toward Earth. If their efforts don’t work – and they’re not overly confident they will – they’ll have to wait until October for an automatic spacecraft reset. With the antenna only being 2% off-kilter, the waiting period might feel even longer.
“That is a long time to wait, so we’ll try sending up commands several times” before then, Dodd shared.
Launched in 1977, Voyager 2, along with its twin Voyager 1, set out on an adventurous journey to explore the outer planets. While both are still communicating and operating smoothly, Voyager 1 holds the record as the most distant spacecraft, currently 15 billion miles (24 billion kilometers) from Earth. Voyager 2 is not far behind at more than 12 billion miles (19 billion kilometers) away.
At those distances, patience is crucial, as it takes over 18 hours for a signal to travel one way. But for now, the team at NASA can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Voyager 2 is still out there, exploring the mysteries of the universe.