A NASA team has detected a signal from the Voyager 2 spacecraft.
Due to a faulty command, the NASA team lost contact with the spacecraft on July 3rd.
“We enlisted the help of the Deep Space Network and radio science groups to listen for Voyager 2’s signal,” said Susan Dovid, NASA’s Voyager project manager.
“We were able to see the spacecraft’s ‘heartbeat’ signal, so now we know the spacecraft is working properly,” he said.
Note that due to an incorrect command, Voyager 2’s antenna was not pointing towards Earth.
Voyager 2 lost contact with mission control as the antenna changed direction and was unable to send data back to Earth.
Voyager 2 has been traveling in space for almost 46 years and in 2018 it left the outer reaches of the solar system.
Right now, this spacecraft is more than 12 billion miles away from Earth.
But the NASA team had a pleasant surprise when they were able to identify the spacecraft’s carrier signal using the Deep Space Network.
The Deep Space Network consists of huge radio antennas that help NASA communicate with space missions.
Now the NASA team will try to send the signal to the spacecraft.
“We have developed a new command to point Voyager 2’s antenna back toward Earth, but the probability of success is very low,” said Susan Dovid.
Because of the distance between Earth and Voyager 2, it takes 18 and a half hours for the signal to cross the solar system and reach the spacecraft.
If the signal sent from Earth fails to reach Voyager 2, the NASA team will have to wait until October, as the program will automatically reboot, after which the antenna can be pointed back at Earth.
That will happen on October 15, and NASA expects that will restore contact with Voyager 2.
Until then, Voyager 2 will continue its journey on a predetermined route.
The spacecraft was launched with Voyager 1 in 1977 and is not the first time it has encountered problems.
Earlier in 2020, Voyager 2 lost contact with the Deep Space Network for 7 months.
Note that Voyager 1 is currently about 15 billion miles from Earth, with which the NASA team maintains contact.
They are the first and currently the only man-made spacecraft to travel beyond the boundaries of the solar system.