NASA finally makes contact with Voyager 2 after longest radio silence in 30 years

I was thrilled as a middle-schooler to stay up late watching PBS coverage of science types poring over printouts of the images arriving from Voyager 1 and 2’s visits to Jupiter and Saturn in 79-81, and visits to Uranus and Neptune in the late 80s.

The Star Wars and Star Trek movie franchises were in high gear, Carl Sagan became a household name, and everywhere NASA was hyping how the Space Shuttle would construct an orbiting space station.

Wasn’t it cool to grow up in an America that appreciated science?

After long months with no way of making contact with Voyager 2, NASA has finally reestablished communications with the record-setting interstellar spacecraft.

The breakdown in communications – lasting since March, almost eight months and a whole pandemic ago – wasn’t due to some rogue malfunction, nor any run-in with interstellar space weirdness (although there’s that too).

In this instance, it was more a case of routine maintenance. And yet, when you’re one of the farthest-flying spacecraft in history – leaving Earth and even the entire solar system behind you – nothing much is ever truly routine.

In March, NASA announced that Deep Space Station 43 (DSS-43) in Australia, the only antenna on Earth that can send commands to Voyager 2, required critical upgrades and would need to shut down for approximately 11 months for the work to be completed.

NASA's Voyager 2 space probe; a big radio dish surrounded by spindly appendages.

NASA’s Voyager 2

During this window, Voyager 2, which is currently over 18.7 billion kilometers (11.6 billion miles) away from Earth and getting farther all the time, wouldn’t be able to receive any communications from Earth, although its own broadcasts back to us would still be received by scientists.


Last week, mission operators sent their first communications to Voyager 2 since March, issuing a series of commands, and NASA reports that Voyager 2 returned a signal confirming it had received the instructions, and executed the commands without issue. —