The Voyager 2 launched in 1977 had been offline since March. NASA only recently managed to reestablish the contact with the probe flying solo at 11.6 billion miles from Earth.
NASA has been sending probes to space since as long as we remember. Fortunately, the earliest of Voyagers are still working and sending important data back home.
One such probe sent to space in 1977 is the Voyager 2. The machine was in contact with Earth until March, that is when scientists had to make some changes to the antenna.
So, the 43-year-old voyager was cut off in March. Now that the repairs are complete the mission NASA established contact with the 43-year-old voyager roaming the space billions of miles from Earth to the old probe using the ground-based Deep Space Station 43 (DSS43) antenna and were successful in re-establishing contact.
DSS43 had been offline since March while NASA completed a series of hardware upgrades, but tested the new components by sending commands to the craft. Nevertheless, due to the distance, the ground team had to wait more than 34 hours for a reply but Voyager 2 received the commands and sent back a 'hello.'
For those who don’t know, DSS43 is located in Australia and is part of a collection of radio antennas around the world that combine to communicate with any spacecraft beyond the moon. Apart from the Australian satellite dish, the other two antennas are located at Goldstone, California, and Madrid, Spain.
Since the call by DSS43 was successful, it will be online fully in February 2021.
The DSN project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Southern California, Brad Arnold, said,
“What makes this task unique is that we're doing work at all levels of the antenna, from the pedestal at ground level all the way up to the feedcones at the center of the dish that extend above the rim. This test communication with Voyager 2 definitely tells us that things are on track with the work we're doing.”
The voyager flew over Neptune's north pole in 1989 and was pushed southward. Since then, it has been following the path which is why it was not in the line of sight of any antennas and DSS43 is the only technology on our planet with a transmitter powerful enough to reach such a distance and it is now receiving science data of interstellar space from the probe.
Philip Baldwin, operations manager for NASA's Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Program, said:
“The DSS43 antenna is a highly specialized system; there are only two other similar antennas in the world, so having the antenna down for one year is not an ideal situation for Voyager or for many other NASA missions. The agency made the decision to conduct these upgrades to ensure that the antenna can continue to be used for current and future missions. For an antenna that is almost 50 years old, it's better to be proactive than reactive with critical maintenance.”
The fact that the repairs worked ensures that NASA can now send establish communications with other missions as well including the Mars Perseverance rover, which will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021.
Article and Image Source: Daily Mail