On July 28, NASA announced that the Voyager 2 spacecraft, which is the second most distant man-made object in the deep space has paused communication with Earth. The American Space Agency revealed that the disorientation of the Voyager 2 is the primary reason why it lost communication between the space probe and the Deep Space Network on Earth.
The antenna pointed 2 degrees away from Earth after several planned commands were given to the Voyager 2 spacecraft which caused it to disorient, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). NASA said that the probe is yet to issue any command or transmit data back to Earth from deep space.
“Data being sent by the spacecraft is no longer reaching the DSN, and the spacecraft is not receiving commands from ground controllers,” the JPL said in a statement.
However, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) recently announced the latest revival hope for its Voyager 2 spacecraft.
A New Hope for The Voyager 2 Spacecraft
On August 1, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) released an official statement on Twitter revealing how they received a signal from the Voyager 2 spacecraft using its Deep Space Network. NASA designed the Deep Space Network with sophisticated technologies to receive weak signals from spacecraft operating in deep space. JPL revealed that the Voyager 2’s carrier signal named the “heartbeat,” has proven that the spacecraft is still sending signals from interstellar space. This announcement gave new hope for the Voyager 2 space probe.
“Engineers will now try to send Voyager 2 a command to point itself back at 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 wrote in the statement.
After NASA lost contact with its Voyager 2 spacecraft, the probe has been traveling alone through deep space. However, the recent weak signal received through NASA Deep Space Network has proven that the Voyager 2 is still in active communication with Earth from its current 12.4 billion miles (19.9 billion kilometers) from our home planet.
However, NASA engineers cannot send commands back to the Voyager 2 spacecraft and the probe on its own can no longer transmit data to the DSN. Even though the American space agency cannot send commands to the probe, we have not lost the spacecraft completely.
Why Voyager 2 spacecraft has remained one of the most sophisticated space probes built in the 20th century
On August 20, 1977, NASA launched its Voyager 2 spacecraft from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The space probe left the solar system on December 10, 2018, making it the second spacecraft to enter interstellar space. Voyager 1, the twin probe to Voyager 2 left the solar system in 2012 and has remained the most distant man-made object from Earth.
Voyager is still in active contact with the Deep Space Network and currently exploring interstellar space at around 15 billion miles (24 billion km) from Earth and remains in contact with our planet. Both Voyager 1 and 2 were made to discover objects at the extreme edge of the solar system and reach outside our planetary system as well. Voyager 2 has accomplished close-up studies of the four giant planets including two gas giants Jupiter and Saturn and the ice giants Neptune and Uranus.
Since its launch, the agency programmed the probe to reset its orientation several times a year. This will help in keeping the Voyager 2’s antenna pointing towards Earth. NASA is planning to execute another reset on Voyager 2 orientation on October 15, 2025, and they hope that the space probe will resume its communication with the ground control team. The agency is hoping that the interstellar spacecraft will remain on its planned trajectory without drifting away into vast deep space.
NASA announced its plan to postpone the planned instrument shutdown by three years in April 2023. This implies that the agency hopes to continue to obtain valuable deep space data until 2026.
Voyager 2 spacecraft has been in operation for over 45 years. During a recent command issued to the probe from Earth, it lost communication with Earth. However, NASA JPL recently announced that its Deep Space Network received a weak signal from the interstellar spacecraft. Even though NASA engineers cannot send a command to the voyager spacecraft, we should expect the space probe to resume its communication during the October 15 reset on it.