NASA’s distant Voyager 2 probe has signaled it is in “good health” after mission control mistakenly cut contact for several days, the US space agency said in its latest update.
Launched in 1977 as a beacon from humanity to the wider Universe, it is currently more than 12.3 billion miles (19.9 billion kilometers) from our planet, exploring interstellar space along with its twin, Voyager 1.
A series of planned commands sent to Voyager 2 on 21 July “inadvertently caused the antenna to point two degrees away from Earth,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said in a recent update.
This left it unable to transmit data or receive commands to its mission control -- a situation that was not expected to be resolved until it conducted an automated re-orientation maneuver on 15 October.
But late Monday, NASA’s Sun & Space account posted on social media that contact had been re-established.
“The Deep Space Network has picked up a carrier signal from @NASAVoyager 2, letting us know that the spacecraft is in good health,” the agency said.
The Deep Space Network is NASA’s international array of giant radio antennas.
While JPL built and operates Voyager spacecraft, the missions are part of the NASA Heliophysics System Observatory.
Voyager 2 left the protective magnetic bubble provided by the Sun, called the heliosphere, in December 2018, and is currently traveling through the space between the stars.
Before leaving our solar system, it became the first and so far only spacecraft to have visited the outer planets Uranus and Neptune.
Voyager 1 was humanity’s first spacecraft to enter the interstellar medium, in 2012, and is currently almost 15 billion miles from Earth.
Both Voyager spacecraft carry “Golden Records” -- 12-inch, gold plated copper disks intended to convey the story of our world to extraterrestrials.