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July 22, 2024
12.3 Billion Miles Away: NASA Has Lost Communication With Voyager 2 Spacecraft

12.3 Billion Miles Away: NASA Has Lost Communication With Voyager 2 Spacecraft

Aug 2, 2023
NASA Voyager the Explorer

This artist’s concept shows NASA’s Voyager spacecraft against a field of stars in the darkness of space.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Voyager 2 has lost communication with Earth due to an unintentional shift in its antenna direction. The next programmed orientation adjustment on October 15 is expected to restore communication, while Voyager 1 continues to operate as usual.

A series of scheduled commands directed at NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft on July 21 led to an unintentional change in antenna direction. Consequently, the antenna moved 2 degrees off course from Earth, causing the spacecraft to lose its ability to receive commands or transmit data back to our planet.

The spacecraft, currently over 12.3 billion miles (19.9 billion kilometers) away from Earth, has consequently suffered a disruption in its communication with NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) ground antennas. Because of the misalignment, the spacecraft is unable to send data to the DSN and it’s not receiving commands from ground controllers.

Voyager 2 is programmed to adjust its orientation multiple times throughout the year to keep its antenna aligned with Earth. The next scheduled adjustment is set for October 15, which is anticipated to re-establish communication. Despite the interruption, the mission team expects Voyager 2 to stay on its planned trajectory throughout this quiet period.

In contrast, Voyager 1, nearly 15 billion miles (24 billion kilometers) from Earth, is continuing its operations without any issues.

NASA's Twin Voyager Spacecraft

An artist’s concept depicting one of NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft. Humanity’s farthest and longest-lived spacecraft celebrated 40 years in August and September 2017. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are twin spacecraft that were launched by NASA in 1977 with the primary goal of exploring the outer solar system. Despite being over four decades old, they remain operational and continue to return valuable scientific data.

Voyager 1 was launched on September 5, 1977, and its mission was to fly by Jupiter and Saturn. During its journey, Voyager 1 provided detailed images and data of these gas giants and their moons, including the discovery of active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io and intricate ring systems around Saturn. In 2012, Voyager 1 made history by becoming the first spacecraft to enter interstellar space, the region of space beyond our solar system.

Voyager 2, launched on August 20, 1977, is the only spacecraft to have flown by all four outer planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. It revealed important details about these planets and their moons, including the discovery of Neptune’s Great Dark Spot and Uranus’s off-center magnetic field.

Both spacecraft carry a “Golden Record,” which is a phonograph record containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. These records are intended to communicate the story of our world to any extraterrestrial intelligence that might find them.

A division of Caltech in Pasadena, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory built and operates the Voyager spacecraft. The Voyager missions are a part of the NASA Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.


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