Wednesday, June 19

Voyager 2 Phones Home After Communications Lost

After days of silence, NASA’s Voyager 2 finally phoned home.

“A bit like hearing the spacecraft’s ‘heartbeat,’ it confirms the spacecraft is still broadcasting, which engineers expected,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a tweet Tuesday.

C​ommunication was lost with the 46-year-old spacecraft about two weeks ago when a wrong command was accidentally sent by flight controllers. That pointed Voyager 2’s antenna the wrong way, tilting it 2 degrees away from Earth, according to JPL.

V​oyager 2 was launched in 1977 to explore far-away planets, and it’s now more than 12 billion miles from Earth.

The “carrier signal” was picked up during a routine scan of the sky by NASA’s Deep Space Network, according to JPL. T​he signal doesn’t mean all communication has resumed, but it indicates that the spacecraft is still operational.

Still, project manager Suzanne Dodd told The Associated Press that it “buoyed our spirits.”

The next step is to send a different command to try and turn the antenna back toward Earth.

“If that does not work, we’ll have to wait until October, when the spacecraft’s onboard software automatically tells it to reset its direction,” JPL tweeted.

B​ut NASA will keep trying to reach Voyager 2 in the meantime.

“That is a long time to wait, so we’ll try sending up commands several times” before then, Dodd said.

V​oyager 2’s twin, Voyager 1, is still working fine and – at 15 billion miles from Earth – is NASA’s most distant spacecraft.

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