Voyager 2 has been traveling through space for 43 years, and is now more than 11 billion miles from Earth. But every so often, something goes wrong. From a report: At the end of January, for instance, the robotic probe executed a routine somersault to beam scientific data back to Earth when an error triggered a shutdown of some of its functions. “Everybody was extremely worried about recovering the spacecraft,” said Suzanne Dodd, who is the Voyager project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The mission’s managers on our planet know what to do when such a fault occurs. Although it takes about a day and a half to talk to Voyager 2 at its current distance, they sent commands to restore its normal operations.
But starting on Monday for the next 11 months, they won’t be able to get word to the spry spacecraft in case something again goes wrong (although the probe can still stream data back to Earth). Upgrades and repairs are prompting NASA to take offline a key piece of space age equipment used to beam messages all around the solar system. The downtime is necessary because of a flood of new missions to Mars scheduled to leave Earth this summer. But the temporary shutdown also highlights that the Deep Space Network, essential infrastructure relied upon by NASA and other space agencies, is aging and in need of expensive upgrades.
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