Someone accidentally entered an erroneous request on July 21, and the Voyager 2 probe’s antenna was realigned, cutting off communication with NASA. It’s possible that NASA won’t be able to contact the spaceship for the next two months.
On Friday, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed that the space agency had lost touch with the Voyager 2 probe, which is now more than 12 billion miles from our planet.
The misguided directive from Earth-based engineers pushed the spacecraft’s antenna two degrees away from the planet.
The Deep Space Network, a worldwide system that controls many space projects, detected a signal from the probe on Tuesday morning. This indicates that the spacecraft is still communicating but at a very low power level.
NASA has had similar failures with communication in the past, with each of them resolved.
On August 20, 1977, Voyager 2 was launched into space to explore the outer planets of our solar system. It’s the only spacecraft ever to reach Uranus and Neptune and only the second to enter interstellar space (the gap between the Milky Way’s stars and our solar system).
NASA launched Voyager 1 a few weeks before Voyager 2, but it took a different path and entered interstellar space first. Specialists on the ground are still in touch with the spaceship.
Nearly 46 years into its mission, the spacecraft still gathers valuable scientific data on the changing environment beyond our solar system.
If scientists cannot restore contact with the spaceship, they won’t be able to do anything about it. A Jet Propulsion Laboratory representative said this is more concerning than the potential loss of short-term scientific data.
To extend the mission’s duration, Voyager 2 began using backup power for its five instruments earlier this year. To keep the mission running as long as feasible, scientists predict that one of these sensors will need to be turned off entirely in 2026 and others in subsequent years.
NASA announced on Thursday that the spacecraft lost contact with Voyage 2 when it was 12.3 billion miles from Earth. After receiving a string of directives, the probe’s antenna was “inadvertently caused to point 2 degrees away from Earth.” It can now not accept orders from Earth or send any data back until October 15.
Voyager 1 is 15 billion miles beyond Earth and functioning correctly. It’s probably still in space, waiting for someone to give the go-ahead to commence the alien invasion.