Voyager 2 is roughly 12,400,000,000 miles from Earth and has been operating for over 45 years, according to NASA’s mission report. While the spacecraft recently received updates to extend its lifetime of service, NASA has revealed that the space probe is now operating in the dark as it accidentally cut off communications with the probe earlier this month.
According to the progress update, NASA says that commands sent to the probe accidentally caused it to move its antenna two degrees away from Earth. While two degrees might not sound like much, it is more than enough distance for the communication systems on Earth to lose Voyager 2’s signal, meaning the probe is completely cut off from NASA commands.
While this could prove a problem, NASA believes that Voyager 2 should continue on its current trajectory without issue until the probe self-regulates and repositions itself to resume contact with Earth. That’s because the spacecraft is programmed to reset its orientation multiple times each year to ensure maximum communications potential and to keep its antenna pointed at Earth.
Currently, the next adjustment date is set for October 15, at which point NASA believes communication will resume without issue. As noted above, Voyager 2 is over 12 billion miles from Earth. Voyager 1, the probe’s sibling, is almost 15 billion miles away and continues to operate normally and without issue.
While there are concerns over Voyager 2’s signal being lost, NASA continues to stand by its belief that the probe will continue as it has, gaining information about the area of space beyond our solar system, which it will be able to transmit back to us once communication resumes in October.
If things do not go as planned, we can at least rest easy knowing the probe has operated for almost 46 years, teaching us more about our universe than any other probes we’ve released thus far.