NASA has just praised its Voyager 2 probe in interstellar space for the first time in more than seven months.
Voyager 2 processors sent a set of test commands to the spacecraft on Thursday (October 29) using the Deep Space Station Radio Antenna 43 (DSS43) in Canberra, Australia. Voyager 2 NASA officials confirmed in an update on Monday (Nov.2) that they recorded the instructions and implemented them without incident.
The commands were the first that NASA had transmitted to Voyager 2 since mid-March, when the DSS43 was 230 feet (70 meters) wide. It went offline for repairs and upgrades. This ongoing maintenance work is extensive, and includes, among other things, the addition of two new wireless transmitters, including one used to communicate with the Voyager 2.
NASA officials said this transmitter has not been replaced in more than 47 years.
“What makes this mission unique is that we work at all levels of the antenna, from the base at ground level to the feed molds in the center of the plate that extends over the edge,” Brad Arnold, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, He said in an update on Monday.
“The connectivity test with Voyager 2 definitely tells us that things are on track with the work we’re doing,” said Arnold, Project Manager at NASA. Deep space network (DSN).
Agency officials said the work, which will benefit communications with a wide range of NASA spacecraft, is scheduled to end in February 2021.
DSN is a network of radio dishes in three different, nearly equidistant regions – Canberra; Madrid Spain; Goldstone, California – used by NASA to communicate with its distant spacecraft. The Canberra site includes three smaller plates that together can receive spacecraft relays, so the Voyager 2 team was able to keep tabs on the distant probe even while DSS43 was blocking them from sending commands.
Voyager 2 cannot be welcomed with DSN equipment in Spain and California: the spacecraft moves downward relative to the Earth’s orbital plane and is only accessible from the Southern Hemisphere.
Voyager 2 and its twin, Voyager 1It was launched a few weeks later in 1977 for an epic grand tour of the giant planets of the solar system. The two probes accomplished this unprecedented task. Voyager 1 flew close to Jupiter and Saturn, and Voyager 2 had close encounters with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. (It was the flyby near Neptune, which included a close look at the largest moon on the planet, Triton, that drove Voyager “south”, by the way).
Voyagers then continued flying. Voyager 1 entered interstellar space in August 2012, becoming the first man-made object to do so. Voyager 2 She followed suit in late 2018.
Both spacecraft are still very powerful, giving scientists their first up-close look at the interstellar medium, the huge expanse of deep space outside the Sun’s field of influence. However, the nuclear powered Voyagers are running out, so mission team members have turned off many of the tools in the probes over the past few years to maximize their service life. Both spacecraft must be strong enough to hold them Data collection through 2024Mission team members said.
Voyager 1 is currently located about 14.1 billion miles (22.7 billion km) from Earth, and Voyager 2 is 11.7 billion miles (18.8 billion km) from us. So it takes about 21 hours for the Mission Control Center to get to Voyager 1 and Approximately 17.5 hours To access Voyager 2.
Mike Wall is the author ofAbroad“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustration by Karl Tate), a book on the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.