NASA hears Voyager 2 ‘heartbeat’ after accidentally cutting off communication

NASA has heard from its Voyager 2 spacecraft following days of silence. 

The agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory – which operates Voyager 2 – previously said that a series of planned commands on July 21 had “inadvertently” caused the antenna to point two degrees away from Earth.

The action resulted in Voyager 2 being unable to receive commands or transmit data back to Earth. 

However, NASA’s Deep Space Network – giant radio antennas across the globe – have picked up a “heartbeat” carrier signal, confirming the spacecraft is still broadcasting. 

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Artist concept showing NASA’s Voyager spacecraft against a backdrop of stars.  (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“Engineers will now try to send Voyager 2 a command to point itself back at Earth,” JPL said in a tweet. “If that does not work, we’ll have to wait until October, when the spacecraft’s onboard software automatically tells it to reset its direction.”

Project manager Suzanne Dodd told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the news “buoyed” spirits there. 

When the antenna is realigned, communications should resume, although and controllers reportedly doubt the command will work. 

The

FILE – In this Aug. 4, 1977, photo provided by NASA, the “Sounds of Earth” record is mounted on the Voyager 2 spacecraft in the Safe-1 Building at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., prior to encapsulation in the protective shroud.  (AP Photo/NASA, File)

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“That is a long time to wait, so we’ll try sending up commands several times” before then, Dodd explained.

Voyager 2 is programmed to reset its orientation multiple times each year to keep its antenna pointing at Earth.

The next reset will occur on Oct. 15. 

Voyager 2 was launched

Voyager 2 was launched on Aug. 20, 1977, aboard a Titan-Centaur rocket. (HUM Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Voyager 2 is located more than 12 billion miles from Earth and first launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in August 1977, along with the twin Voyager 1. 

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Voyager 1 is around 15 billion miles away from Earth.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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