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Voyager 2 is officially lost in space.

NASA sends iconic spacecraft into a spin after sending wrong command.

By WoorLord Fri 04 Aug, 2023 8:23 PM
NASA has confirmed that is has lost contact with Voyager 2, its iconic space craft now cruising towards the edge of our solar system, following the upload of an erroneous command which made the craft tilt its antenna 2 degrees away from Earth, resulting in a loss of contact with the Deep Space Network of antennas.Name:  Voyager 2.jpg
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How far away is Voyager 2?
Voyager 2 is more than 12.3 billion miles (19.9 billion km) from Earth, where it is travelling at an estimated 34,390mph (55,346km/h) through space heading away from the Sun. The distance is so great that Voyager 2 left The Sun’s influence in 2018 as bow shock waves showed it had passed beyond the heliosphere, an outer shell of solar particles and magnetic fields generated by the Sun. As the craft passed the edge of the Heliosphere it officially entered interstellar space, the area of space between stars. Although not the furthest manmade object from Earth, that honour is held by its Twin Voyager 1 which is over 15 billion miles from Earth, it is still far enough way that transmissions from Earth at the speed of light still take 18 hours to be received by the craft.

The legacy of the Voyager mission
Voyager 2 launched in 1977, along with its twin Voyager 1, on a mission to take advantage of a rare alignment of outer planets with Voyager 2 photographing and studying 4 of the then 9 planets in the solar system (Pluto was still a planet back then). The mission was hailed as a triumphant success for the space agency, who captured data and images which are still the best we have today, especially with regards to Uranus and Neptune, as no other space craft has since visited either Ice Giant since Voyager 2 in 1985 and 1989 respectfully.

The Voyager mission made several significant discoveries including the discovery of 22 new planetary satellites: 3 at Jupiter, 3 at Saturn, 10 at Uranus, and 6 at Neptune. They formally confirmed the existence of Jupiter's rings, provided additional information about the rings of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, and Voyager 2 confirmed the discovery of Uranian and Neptunian magnetospheres for the first time.

Since completing their initial missions, the Voyager probes have continued to report back data from the very edge of known space, including the famous and stunningly poignant image of the “Pale blue dot” taken by Voyager 1 in 1990. The Science hasn’t stopped either, with both craft reporting back changes in magnetic fields as they passed the heliopause and then left the solar system entirely.

Whilst they are not scheduled to meet any new civilisations, they are equipped to 1970s standards should that happen, with each sporting a Golden Record containing recordings of sounds from Earth, pictures, and messages intended to inform anyone who might come across them of where it originated and that we come in peace.

The future of Voyager 2
One thing is for sure, the Voyager craft will never return to Earth. Their hyperbolic trajectories ensure they will continue to cross the cosmos, travelling away from Earth, until they either get caught in the gravitational influence of a foreign star, come to a sticky end with a collision with something, or get sucked into a blackhole, only to re-emerge on the other side of the galaxy and lead to a new V'Ger incident, as was the case in Star Trek The Motion Picture and the Voyager 6 probe.
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Being so far from the Sun, solar power simply isn't viable. For that reason, NASA’s engineers equipped the Voyager craft with three radioisotope thermoelectric generators, or RTGs. These convert latent heat generated by the decay of radioisotope fuel, plutonium-238, into electricity. This means that the probes continue to be able to transmit data from beyond the edge of our solar system. On top of that NASA has undertaken several updates to the craft to save energy, such as turning off the science experiment heater units. All this however won’t allow both craft, now 45 years old, to continue transmitting much beyond 2025/26.

So, is Voyager lost forever?
Not yet, there’s still hope. The space agency said on Monday it was using its antenna in Australia to send the correct code to the craft to reverse the error, and they were able to detect the craft’s carrier signal on Tuesday, so Voyager is still there – just stubbornly facing away from Earth. However, there is further hope of a full recovery when Voyager 2 makes its next preprogramed reorientation manoeuvre to revert back to facing Earth, this is expected on 15th October. NASA are hopeful of regaining full contact then.

UPDATE, Aug. 4, 2023: NASA has re-established full communications with Voyager 2.

What did you think of this article, will Voyager 2 return to full operation or will it drift away to form the basis of some gigantic spacecraft determined to return it to is creator? Let us know in the comments below.

Fri 04 Aug, 2023 8:23 PM
Update: Nasa has officially regained contact with Voyager 2!
Sun 06 Aug, 2023 6:56 AM
Update: Nasa has officially regained contact with Voyager 2!
and here is a detailed post: NASA reestablishes contact with Voyager 2