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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Voyager-2 Found Outside Solar System After Command Error Severs Earth Contact

After losing communication, NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) recently detected a carrier signal from the Voyager 2 spacecraft. The mishap occurred due to an accidental command on July 21, causing Voyager 2’s antenna to shift by 2 degrees from Earth.

This seemingly minor deviation had significant consequences, cutting off communication between the spacecraft and Earth. Fortunately, the carrier signal’s detection indicates that Voyager 2 is still operational and transmitting signals, although weak.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is now focusing on the next step: sending a command to reorient Voyager 2’s antenna back towards Earth. However, this task is challenging due to the vast distance between the spacecraft and our planet, with signals taking about 18.5 hours to traverse one way.

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If this attempt fails, the team must wait until October 15, when Voyager 2’s onboard software automatically reset its orientation, pointing the antenna towards Earth and enabling ongoing communication.

Despite the current disruption, Voyager 2 continues on its intended trajectory. Its twin, Voyager 1, approximately 15 billion miles from Earth, continues to operate and communicate with the DSN as expected.

Launched in 1977, both Voyager missions have provided invaluable insights into our solar system and beyond. The fact that they continue to function after 45 years of travel is a testament to the robustness of their design.

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