After spending more than four decades in outer space, NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft officially left the heliosphere and entered interstellar space in December, following closely in the footsteps of NASA’s famed Voyager 1 spacecraft.
Both Voyager spacecraft remain active today, collecting continuous scientific data even as they hurtle through interstellar space. On the other hand, Voyager 2 gave quite the scare a few weeks ago when it failed to rotate during a routine magnetic field instrument calibration and then appeared to shut off its science instruments.
Working around the clock, NASA engineers managed to contact the Voyager 2 spacecraft and resolve the glitch. The effort was a long and tedious one as signals sent from Earth take more than 17 hours to reach the spacecraft and then another 17 hours for signals sent from the spacecraft to return to us – that’s 34 hours in total for a single information relay.
Thanks to these efforts, Voyager 2 is now back online, and its science instruments are once again fully operational. Voyager 2 is continues to sip on its limited radioactive power source, but if everything goes according to plan, the mission should provide up to another five years of data collection from a place in outer space that humankind has yet to study in detail.