After over a week of radio silence caused by an unintended erroneous command, NASA announced on Tuesday that it has successfully detected a faint “heartbeat” signal from Voyager 2, the outer space probe currently journeying a billion miles distant from our planet.
The signal from Voyager 2 was identified during a routine sky scan, providing reassurance that the probe is operating normally and remains in good condition.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory indicated that the extensive dish located in Canberra, Australia, has been striving to capture signals from Voyager 2 and transmitting accurate instructions for retrieval. A complete reconnection, however, is still pending.
The mishap transpired when the United States space agency lost contact with Voyager 2, positioned billions of miles away in the cosmos, after an unintended command erroneously reoriented its antenna away from Earth.
Voyager 2, positioned more than 12 billion miles away, encountered a minute 2% shift in its antenna orientation, which ultimately led to the loss of communication, rendering it unable to either transmit data or receive commands.
NASA revealed that the colossal antenna stationed in Canberra was actively monitoring for any trace signals from Voyager 2, an impressive feat considering the vast distance of over 19 billion kilometers that the signals must traverse to reach Earth. The signal’s journey spans over 18 hours.
Launched from Florida in 1977, Voyager 2 embarked on a mission to study the outer reaches of our solar system, conducting investigations on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
It preceded its twin, Voyager 1, and ventured into interstellar space in 2018, making significant discoveries such as the identification of new moons around Uranus and Jupiter.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, overseeing the mission, shared plans to intensify efforts in the near future by transmitting accurate commands toward Voyager 2’s vicinity from the Canberra antenna, aiming for precise alignment. Failing that, an automated spacecraft reset scheduled for October offers an alternative for reestablishing communication.
In the interim, NASA anticipates that Voyager 2 will continue to follow its intended trajectory during this period of radio silence.
Voyager 1, a fellow space probe that remains in contact, holds the distinction of being humanity’s most remote spacecraft, positioned nearly 15 billion miles (24 billion kilometers) away from Earth in the expanse of deep space.