NASA just lately misplaced contact with its Voyager 2 spacecraft. NPR’s Steve Inskeep talks to Suzanne Dodd, undertaking supervisor for the Voyager Interstellar mission, about what occurred.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The area company NASA is ready to reestablish contact with Voyager 2. That spacecraft has been hurtling away from the Earth since 1977. In current weeks, a programming error on Earth brought about the company to lose contact, leaving NASA ready for an computerized reset to kick on this fall. Suzanne Dodd, who manages Voyager 2 from a California lab, says it is now 13 billion miles away recording data and in addition prepared for contact simply in case.
SUZANNE DODD: It does have this gold file on it that comprises the sounds of our planet Earth, and it is on this spacecraft for any future being to find it.
INSKEEP: You understand, once I first learn concerning the gold file as a child, I feel, I puzzled, would, you realize, any alien life type – would they know the best way to play it? And I am now realizing it has been going so lengthy that if it got here again to Earth with this gold file, we might have the identical query. Would anyone know the best way to play it?
DODD: Proper. It is a phonographic file. They really connected a needle with that file on the surface of the spacecraft, so the know-how is certainly Seventies know-how with Voyager.
INSKEEP: The file comprises greetings in lots of languages.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Non-English language spoken).
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Non-English language spoken).
INSKEEP: And in addition sounds of Earth.
(SOUNDBITE OF ANIMALS VOCALIZING)
INSKEEP: So we presume nobody has listened at this level, however you might be getting data. How would you describe to laymen what you are studying concerning the universe these final a number of years?
DODD: I have a look at Voyager proper now as considerably of a climate satellite tv for pc, in some methods. There’s nothing to take photos of. We have stopped taking photos since we went previous Neptune. It’s totally, very darkish, very, very chilly the place Voyager is. The solar is principally a vivid star to Voyager. However we will measure the setting we’re touring by. So we measure the density of the plasma. We measure the power ranges of charged particles that we see. We measure the photo voltaic wind and the absence of photo voltaic wind.
INSKEEP: So what occurred with the antennas just lately?
DODD: Properly, it was a bit unlucky. We despatched a command to replace its pointing towards the Earth, and there was an error in that command. And so it is pointed about two levels off of the Earth. And from the gap that Voyager 2 is, near 13 billion miles from us, that primarily factors it virtually to the orbit of Jupiter.
INSKEEP: Wow. It is a number of planets off.
DODD: A number of planets off, yeah. And that makes it very laborious to speak with.
INSKEEP: What have the final a number of weeks been like whenever you realized this occurred and one thing had gone improper?
DODD: It has been very nerve-racking. I feel it is disheartening to know that, you realize, we have labored so lengthy with this spacecraft that it is likely to be in jeopardy now. I imply, it is definitely a member of the household to everyone on the group who works on it. And to have this sort of problem occur is – it is scary. It is disheartening. We’re hopeful that every one the built-in checks that we put into the software program will work, however you by no means know 100%. So it is form of a little bit bit on pins and needles and fairly nervous, really.
INSKEEP: Properly, Suzanne Dodd, it is a pleasure speaking with you. Thanks a lot.
DODD: Thanks very a lot.
INSKEEP: She’s the Voyager undertaking supervisor on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which hopes to reestablish contact with the spacecraft by October. We’re listening to a Chuck Berry music that’s on that golden file on board Voyager 2.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “JOHNNY B. GOODE”)
CHUCK BERRY: (Singing) Deep down in Louisiana near New Orleans, method again.
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