A team from NASA has managed to fix the Voyager 2 space probe even though the spacecraft is nearly 11.5 billion miles (13.5 billion km) from Earth. The craft is so far away that it takes more than a day and a half for mission team members to see if their commands have worked. Fortunately, Voyager 2 is now back online and gathering and relaying scientific information just as before.
NASA agency officials wrote in a mission update: “Mission operators report that Voyager 2 continues to be stable and that communications between Earth and the spacecraft are good. The spacecraft has resumed taking science data, and the science teams are now evaluating the health of the instruments following their brief shut-off.”
Voyager 2 and its twin, Voyager 1, were launched a few weeks apart in 1977. The probes conducted flybys of the farthest planets in our solar system and just kept on flying, entering extended interstellar missions. Voyager 1 entered into interstellar space in August 2012, and Voyager 2 followed in November 2018. Voyager 1 is farther away, at about 13.8 billion miles (22.2 billion kilometers) from Earth.
On Jan. 25, Voyager 2 failed to carry out a maneuver as planned, causing two onboard systems to remain on longer than intended. The glitch triggered the spacecraft’s fault detection software, turning off the probe’s scientific equipment and alerting NASA that something went wrong. NASA explained in its statement: “Multiple fault protection routines were programmed into both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 in order to allow the spacecraft to automatically take actions to protect themselves if potentially harmful circumstances arise.”
Voyager 2’s science gear is all back up and running. If all goes well, it should have another five years of life left NASA officials have said that the radioisotope thermoelectric generators that power the Voyagers are running low on juice and will likely be depleted by the mid-2020s.