CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — After days of silence, NASA has heard from Voyager 2 in interstellar space billions of miles away.
Hurtling ever deeper into interstellar space, Voyager 2 had been out of touch ever since flight controllers accidentally sent a wrong command more than a week ago that tilted its antenna away from Earth. The spacecraft’s antenna shifted a mere 2%, but it was enough to cut communications.
NASA’s Deep Space Network, giant radio antennas across the globe, picked up a “heartbeat signal,” meaning the 46-year-old Voyager 2 craft is alive and operating, project manager Suzanne Dodd said in an email Tuesday. The spacecraft is currently more than 12 billion miles distant. It takes more than 18 hours for a signal to reach Earth from so far away.
NASA plans to bombard Voyager 2’s vicinity with a command to reorient the antenna, in hopes it hits its mark. Otherwise, NASA will have to wait until October for an automatic spacecraft reset that should restore communication, according to officials.
Voyager 2 was launched in 1977 to explore the outer planets, just a couple weeks ahead of its identical twin, Voyager 1.
Still in touch with Earth, Voyager 1 is now nearly 15 billion miles away, making it humanity’s most distant spacecraft.