NASA’s Voyager 2 probe should fend for itself in the interstellar house for the following 11 months or so.
NASA is upgrading the 230-foot-large (70 meters) radio dish in Australia that mission group members use to ship instructions to Voyager 2, which launched in 1977 and entered interstellar space in November 2018. Voyager 2 might be by itself till that work is finished in January 2021, although the spacecraft will nonetheless have the ability to beam science knowledge house.
However, don’t fret an excessive amount of about Voyager 2; it ought to be capable of dealing with its prolonged isolation, mission staff members mentioned. The Australian radio dish is a part of the Deep Space Network (DSN), the system NASA makes use of to speak with its many space probes. There are three DSN websites — one every in California, Spain, and Australia.
Every website has a number of huge antennas. For instance, the Australian complicated, which lies about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Canberra, additionally options three 111-foot-huge (34 m) radio dishes. The 111-footers can obtain science knowledge, however solely the 230-foot one has the particular transmitter required to beam instructions to Voyager 2, NASA officers mentioned.
The California and Spain DSN websites aren’t any assists in this regard, both. Voyager 2, which is at present greater than 11 billion miles (17 billion kilometers) from Earth, is shifting downward relative to our planet’s orbital airplane and, due to this fact, will be hailed solely from the Southern Hemisphere.
The massive Australian dish has been working for 48 years and wishes the improve, NASA officers mentioned. The company determined to begin the work now — the improvement is scheduled to start “in early March,” in line with the Wednesday NASA assertion — as a result of Voyager 2 just lately bounced back from a glitch and is wholesome once more, the officers added.
The improvement will enhance communications with many NASA spacecraft, not simply Voyager 2, company officers mentioned. For instance, the work will profit NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, which is scheduled to launch this summer season, and the company’s Artemis program of crewed lunar exploration, which goals to land two astronauts close to the moon’s south pole in 2024.
Voyager 1 reached this exploration frontier in August 2012, changing into the primary human-made object ever to depart the heliosphere, the massive bubble of magnetic fields and charged particles that the sun blows around itself. Voyager 2 adopted about six years later.