NASA Makes Contact with Spacecraft 11.6 Billion Miles Away From Earth

by Jennifer Shea

The Voyager 2 spacecraft launched in 1977. It has made it to all four of the solar system’s giant planets. Now, after seven months of radio silence, an antenna repair has allowed NASA to communicate with the probe from 11.6 BILLION miles away.

On Oct. 29, NASA sent a command to Voyager 2 via a large radio antenna, The Independent reported. The antenna had been out of commission for repairs since March.

Spacecraft Breaks Silence

Voyager sent a signal back indicating it had received the command and executed it without problems, NASA said in a statement. There is only one antenna in the world that can communicate with Voyager 2. Known as Deep Space Station 43, it is located in Canberra, Australia. 

One of the radio transmitters that technicians replaced as part of the repairs had not been replaced in over 47 years. 

“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,” Brad Arnold said in the statement. Arnold is the DSN project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Southern California. “This test communication with Voyager 2 definitely tells us that things are on track with the work we’re doing.”

NASA Upgrades Allow Future Missions

Meanwhile, during the seven months of radio silence, Voyager 2 continued to send back updates on its condition. It also sent scientific information, according to Gizmodo.

“The agency made the decision to conduct these upgrades to ensure that the antenna can continue to be used for current and future missions,” Philip Baldwin said. Baldwin is an operations manager for NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Program. “For an antenna that is almost 50 years old, it’s better to be proactive than reactive with critical maintenance.”

Voyager 2 is hurtling through the heliosphere at 34,275 miles per hour right now. It has been exploring the outer reaches of the solar system.