NASA just lately lost get hold of with its Voyager 2 spacecraft. NPR’s Steve Inskeep talks to Suzanne Dodd, project manager for the Voyager Interstellar mission, about what happened.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The place agency NASA is waiting to reestablish get hold of with Voyager 2. That spacecraft has been hurtling absent from the Earth given that 1977. In modern weeks, a programming mistake on Earth prompted the company to drop get hold of, leaving NASA waiting for an automated reset to kick in this tumble. Suzanne Dodd, who manages Voyager 2 from a California lab, says it truly is now 13 billion miles away recording information and also all set for get in touch with just in situation.
SUZANNE DODD: It does have this gold file on it that contains the sounds of our earth Earth, and it is on this spacecraft for any upcoming becoming to find it.
INSKEEP: You know, when I to start with browse about the gold document as a kid, I feel, I puzzled, would, you know, any alien lifestyle variety – would they know how to enjoy it? And I’m now recognizing it really is been likely so very long that if it came back to Earth with this gold report, we would have the exact query. Would any individual know how to participate in it?
DODD: Right. It really is a phonographic file. They really hooked up a needle with that record on the outside the house of the spacecraft, so the technological know-how is surely 1970s technological innovation with Voyager.
INSKEEP: The file contains greetings in many languages.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
Unidentified Particular person #1: (Non-English language spoken).
Unidentified Particular person #2: (Non-English language spoken).
Unknown Particular person #3: (Non-English language spoken).
INSKEEP: And also seems of Earth.
(SOUNDBITE OF ANIMALS VOCALIZING)
INSKEEP: So we presume no a person has listened at this stage, but you are getting details. How would you describe to laymen what you happen to be finding out about the universe these last many decades?
DODD: I search at Voyager ideal now as considerably of a temperature satellite, in some techniques. You will find almost nothing to get pictures of. We’ve stopped using pics because we went earlier Neptune. It really is incredibly, incredibly darkish, really, pretty cold in which Voyager is. The sunlight is fundamentally a vivid star to Voyager. But we can measure the natural environment we are touring through. So we evaluate the density of the plasma. We evaluate the vitality stages of charged particles that we see. We measure the photo voltaic wind and the absence of solar wind.
INSKEEP: So what took place with the antennas just lately?
DODD: Nicely, it was a bit regrettable. We sent a command to update its pointing towards the Earth, and there was an error in that command. And so it’s pointed about two levels off of the Earth. And from the length that Voyager 2 is, close to 13 billion miles from us, that fundamentally points it practically to the orbit of Jupiter.
INSKEEP: Wow. It is numerous planets off.
DODD: A number of planets off, yeah. And that would make it really difficult to converse with.
INSKEEP: What have the final various months been like when you recognized this happened and something had long gone erroneous?
DODD: It is been very nerve-racking. I feel it can be disheartening to know that, you know, we have labored so extensive with this spacecraft that it could be in jeopardy now. I signify, it truly is certainly a member of the family members to most people on the team who works on it. And to have this sort of issue transpire is – it is scary. It’s disheartening. We’re hopeful that all the built-in checks that we set into the software program will operate, but you by no means know 100%. So it is type of a minimal bit on pins and needles and pretty anxious, in fact.
INSKEEP: Well, Suzanne Dodd, it is really a satisfaction talking with you. Thank you so considerably.
DODD: Thank you very considerably.
INSKEEP: She’s the Voyager task manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which hopes to reestablish get in touch with with the spacecraft by Oct. We are listening to a Chuck Berry song that is on that golden report on board Voyager 2.
(SOUNDBITE OF Tune, “JOHNNY B. GOODE”)
CHUCK BERRY: (Singing) Deep down in Louisiana close to New Orleans, way back again.
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