Tuesday, 1 August 2023

NASA Loses Contact With Spacecraft That’s Been Exploring Solar System More Than 40 Years

 NASA lost contact with the Voyager 2 spacecraft after the space agency accidentally sent it the wrong command and slightly tilted its antenna away from Earth. 

Voyager 2, which has been exploring the outer regions of the solar system after its launch in 1977, is currently located around 12 billion miles from Earth — and now, the spacecraft can’t send data back or receive commands, CBS News reported. The accidental antenna shift occurred when NASA sent a series of planned commands to Voyager 2 on July 21, but NASA is hopeful that a scheduled orientation reset on October 15 will move the antenna back toward Earth and restart communication. 

The antenna shifted by just 2%, but that was enough to cut Voyager 2’s communications with NASA, according to the Associated Press. NASA said on Monday that a dish antenna in Canberra, Australia, is looking for any stray signals from the spacecraft, but the agency isn’t holding out hope that the Australian antenna will find it. Voyager 2’s signal takes more than 18 hours to reach Earth. Meanwhile, NASA said the spacecraft would continue its current trajectory through the solar system.  

Both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were launched in 1977. Voyager 1 has traveled farther than any other spacecraft, as it is nearly 15 billion miles from Earth and is still in contact with NASA. Voyager 1 and 2’s primary mission was to explore Jupiter and Saturn, according to NASA. 

“After making a string of discoveries there — such as active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io and intricacies of Saturn’s rings — the mission was extended,” NASA said. “Voyager 2 went on to explore Uranus and Neptune, and is still the only spacecraft to have visited those outer planets. The adventurers’ current mission, the Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM), will explore the outermost edge of the Sun’s domain. And beyond.”


Both Voyagers made history when they became the only spacecrafts to reach interstellar space, a region outside the sun’s heliosphere, the protective bubble around the sun that is filled with magnetic fields and protons and electrons of solar wind. Voyager 1 entered interstellar space in August 2012, and Voyager 2 reached the space mark in November 2018.  

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