Somebody really spaced out on this one.
NASA has lost contact with its deep space, Voyager 2 probe after giving the spacecraft an incorrect command two weeks ago.
On Tuesday, it was announced that NASA had only first heard back from the vessel when a “heartbeat signal” was picked up by deep space network antennas massively positioned throughout Earth.
Learning that Voyager 2 — launched in 1977 to flyby our solar system’s outer, jovian planets — had a signal “buoyed our spirits” at NASA, project manager Suzanne Dodd wrote in an email, the Associated Press reported.
It’s now on flight controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California to attempt spinning Voyager 2’s antenna — off-kilter by an impactful 2% — so it can face the Earth again to better receive signals.
If unsuccessful, NASA doesn’t have high hopes at the moment. The only other option is an automatic spacecraft reset scheduled for October.
“That is a long time to wait, so we’ll try sending up commands several times” prior, Dodd added.
Still, NASA is approaching the situation with a sense of humor by sharing social media posts from the interstellar satellite’s twin companion, Voyager 1.
The agency posted a message on X (formerly Twitter), saying: “You might have heard … Voyager 2 is taking a break from sending data until October. In the meantime, I’m out here, almost 15 billion miles (24 billion km) from Earth and doing fine! – V1.”
Recently, data gathered from Voyager 2’s flyby of Uranus in the 1980s was reevaluated at the same California lab during a current search for life on the moons of the gas giant. Further research rooted in newly discovered bodies of water found on Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon “would help address the extent of habitable environments in the outer solar system,” NASA researchers wrote in a recent study.
Voyager missions 1 and 2 were originally designed to explore the outer planets — and beyond, per Encyclopedia Astronautica. The twin spacecrafts’ development, launch and operations ran a budget of $865 million, along with an additional $30 million earmarked to see the probes through at least two years of interstellar research after making a final planetary encounter with Neptune.
As scientists scramble to wrangle the wayward probe — the loss of which would be a devastation to the space research community — Voyager 1 continues to hold the record for traveling farther than any other earthly craft.
Source by [New York Post]