NASA lost contact with its Voyager 2 spacecraft—the second-most distant object ever built by humans and flung into space—nearly two weeks ago due to an errant command sent to the probe. This caused Voyager to point its antenna slightly away from Earth.
At the time, the space agency said it wasn't panicking. The mission's scientists believed they had several options to restore communications with the half-century-old probe. And so they did.
In an update posted Friday, NASA said all is now well once again with Voyager 2. NASA's Deep Space Network facility in Canberra, Australia, was able to send a "shout" command to Voyager instructing the spacecraft to reorient itself into a proper position to facilitate communication with Earth.
It took 18.5 hours for the signal to reach the spacecraft, which is now 19.9 billion kilometers away from Earth. Finally, after a total of 37 hours, a signal returned from the probe. Shortly after midnight on Friday morning, at 12:29 am ET, Voyager 2 started streaming back science and telemetry data.
Accordingly, the venerable probe is healthy, on course, and communicating with NASA once again.
Prior to the launch of Voyager 1 and 2 in 1977 on two different rockets, humans had been gazing at fuzzy blobs in the outer Solar System for hundreds of years. Pioneer 10 and 11 provided some better views of Jupiter and Saturn, but still, very little was known about the planets or their moons. Next to nothing was known of Uranus and Neptune. The Voyagers uncovered complex planetary systems and incredible moons, such as volcano-covered Io, icy Europa, and Titan, with its methane seas.
And in their old age, the two probes have kept on exploring. Voyager 1, at a distance of 24 billion km from Earth, and Voyager 2 have both left the Solar System, exploring the barren but scientifically interesting interstellar medium.