NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft resumed communication on Friday after flight controllers repaired an error that had caused weeks of silence.
Voyager 2, which is hurtling farther into interstellar space billions of kilometers away, stopped communication two weeks ago. The spacecraft’s antenna was angled away from Earth after controllers delivered the incorrect command.
NASA’s Deep Space Network transmitted a new command on Wednesday in the hopes of repointing the antenna, utilizing the highest powerful transmitter at the massive radio dish antenna in Australia. The antenna of Voyager 2 needs to be moved by only 2 degrees.
The command took more than 18 hours to reach Voyager 2, which is more than 12 billion miles (19 billion kilometers) distant, and another 18 hours to receive a response.
The long shot was successful. According to officials at California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the spacecraft began returning data again on Friday.
“I just sort of sighed. I melted in the chair,” project manager Suzanne Dodd told The Associated Press.
“Voyager’s back,” said project scientist Linda Spilker.
Since its launch in 1977 to investigate the outer solar system, Voyager 2 has been hurtling through space. Voyager 1, launched two weeks later, is presently the farthest distant spacecraft, 15 billion miles (24 billion kilometers) away and still in touch.
According to Dodd, the two-week gap was thought to be the longest NASA has gone without hearing from Voyager 2.
NASA restores contact with Voyager 2 spacecraft after mistake led to weeks of silence https://t.co/qgFFpP8tnU
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) August 5, 2023
According to Dodd, the Voyagers may be alive and well on the 50th anniversary of their launch in 2027 if their plutonium power persists. Details about the interstellar magnetic field and the amount of cosmic rays are among the scientific tidbits they’ve transmitted back in recent years.
“We’ve been very clever over the last 10 years to eke out every single little watt,” added Dodd. “Hopefully, one of them will make it to 50. But they are old and certainly events like this one that just happened scare the dickens out of me, as far as making that type of a milestone.”
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