NASA has successfully regained contact with its Voyager 2 probe much earlier than expected. The spacecraft, launched in 1977 to explore space, received an “interstellar shout” from NASA on Tuesday, effectively turning its antenna back towards our home planet.
After 37 hours of uncertainty, it was confirmed that the command worked, allowing data to be received from the probe located billions of miles away.
Staff used the “highest-power transmitter” to send a message to the spacecraft and timed it to be sent during “the best conditions” so the antenna lined up with the command, Voyager project manager Suzanne Dodd told AFP.
Voyager 2 Revives Communication with Earth
Before the reconnection, Voyager 2 had been unable to receive commands or send data back to Earth through NASA’s Deep Space Network, a network of giant radio antennas.
However, as of August 4th, the spacecraft is operating normally, carrying its scientific instruments on its planned trajectory through the universe.
In their efforts to establish contact, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory aimed the antenna towards Voyager 2’s location, sending the correct command repeatedly, hoping for a response. Finally, on Monday, the first faint “heartbeat” signal was detected, indicating successful communication.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, responsible for managing the Voyager missions, revealed that the antenna relentlessly bombarded Voyager 2’s area with the correct command in a determined attempt to establish contact.
The probe’s programming includes multiple positions resets each year to ensure its antenna remains directed at Earth. The next reset is scheduled for October 15, serving as a last hope if previous contact attempts were unsuccessful.
Voyager 2 and its counterpart Voyager 1 are the only spacecraft to venture outside the heliosphere, the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by the Sun. They reached interstellar space in 2018 and 2012, respectively.
These twin spacecraft were specially designed to capitalize on a rare alignment of outer planets, providing an opportunity to explore Jupiter and Saturn. Voyager 2 holds a unique distinction, as it is the only spacecraft to have flown by Neptune and Uranus during its mission.
Once, run out of power runs out, both Voyager probes will continue their endless journey through space.