Flight controllers accidentally sent an incorrect command nearly two weeks ago that tilted the antenna and cut communication.
After days of silence, NASA has heard from Voyager 2 in interstellar space billions of miles away
The Voyager 2 probe, sent into space in 1977 and located 19,900 million km from Earth, sent a signal of its “heartbeat”, NASA reported Tuesday after having mistakenly interrupted contact with its mythical spacecraft.
A series of commands sent to Voyager 2 on July 21 “inadvertently caused the antenna to point at two degrees from Earth,” a NASA lab reported in a recent update.
Flight controllers accidentally sent an incorrect command nearly two weeks ago that tilted the spacecraft’s antenna away from Earth and cut contact.
This caused it to stop transmitting data to mission control and receiving orders, a situation that was not expected to be resolved until October 15, when an automatic reorientation maneuver was scheduled.
But on Tuesday, Voyager project manager Suzanne Dodd told AFP that the team had made a last-ditch effort to reestablish contact as soon as possible with the help of the Deep Space Network, an international array of giant radio antennas, and other that orbit the Earth.
To her surprise, she worked.
“This was successful because we see the ‘heartbeat’ signal from the spacecraft,” launched to explore the outer planets and serve as a beacon for humanity, she stated.
“So we know the spacecraft is alive and working,” she said. She added that she has been given new instructions to point the spacecraft’s antenna at Earth but there is a “low probability” that it will work.
Since October 15 is far away, NASA will continue to try to transmit orders.
Voyager 2 left the Sun’s protective bubble, called the heliosphere, in 2018 to enter interstellar space.
Before leaving the solar system, it was the only probe to fly by Uranus and Neptune.
Its sister ship Voyager 1, also launched in 1977, became the first spacecraft to enter interstellar space in 2012 and is currently about 15 billion miles from Earth.