NASA hears ‘heartbeat’ from Voyager 2
AFP | Washington
The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com
NASA’s distant Voyager 2 probe has sent a “heartbeat” signal to Earth after mission control mistakenly cut contact, the US space agency said yesterday.
Launched in 1977 to explore the outer planets and serve as a beacon of humanity to the wider universe, it is currently more than 12.3 billion miles (19.9 billion kilometers) from our planet -- well beyond the solar system.
A series of planned commands sent to Voyager 2 on July 21 “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 October 15.
But yesterday, Voyager project manager Suzanne Dodd said the team enlisted the help of the Deep Space Network -- an international array of giant radio antennas, plus a few that orbit Earth -- in a last-ditch effort to re-establish contact sooner.
To their surprise, “this was successful in that we see the ‘heartbeat’ signal from the spacecraft,” she said. “So we know the spacecraft is alive and operating.
This buoyed our spirits.” The team is “now generating a new command to attempt to point the spacecraft antenna toward Earth,” Dodd added, although she said there is only a “low probability” it will work. Still, given October 15 is a long way away, NASA will keep trying to send up these commands.