They don't make 'em like they used to: Voyager 2 repairs underway

Our Gadgets of Days Gone By series is over, and it focused pretty much on consumer goods that made our lives more entertaining or more bearable. But there’s an awful lot of technology from decades past still in use today. Take for example the Voyager spacecraft from NASA. Launched more than 30 years ago, Voyager 2 completed its primary mission in 1989 but has continued to provide invaluable scientific data and shows little signs of obsolescence. With something as useful and irreplaceable as Voyager 2, a small glitch in communications is not cause to scrap the program, but instead a reason to scramble the brightest folks available to resolve the problem — no easy feat when communications with the probe take more than half a day to reach their target!

On April 22 the trasmissions from Voyager 2 started coming back garbled. Scientists at NASA have sent commands to the probe to stop transmitting scientific data, and instead send only information related to the general health and status of the probe itself. Imagine, if you will, trying to boot Windows into Safe Mode, when every keystroke takes 13 hours to send. That’s a very poor analogy of what’s happening, but I think it’s a pretty decent comparison of how mind-numbingly frustrating this operation must be for the NASA team. NASA released a statement about the repair effort.

Mission team members have been working to troubleshoot and resume the regular flow of science data. Because of a planned roll maneuver and moratorium on sending commands, engineers got their first chance to send commands to the spacecraft on April 30. It takes nearly 13 hours for signals to reach the spacecraft and nearly 13 hours for signals to come down to NASA’s Deep Space Network on Earth.

If you’re interested in the goings-on of Voyager 2, be sure to follow @Voyager2 on Twitter for updates about its current distance from Earth, as well as read the Voyager Weekly Reports

Tip o’ the hat to Space