[U] We Are Moderately Concerned… For Little “V’ger 2” — Now In Fail Safe Mode.

UPDATED on Feb. 5, 2020 — per NASA:

Mission operators report that Voyager 2 continues to be stable and that comm- unications between Earth and the spacecraft are good. The spacecraft has resumed taking science data, and the science teams are now evaluating the health of the instruments following their brief shutoff. . . . End update.

With the end of Spitzer’s main science mission passing, last week — we are reminded, anew. . . just how robust NASA/JPL’s jaunty, twisty, little crafts have proved to be. It is nothing short of. . . jaw-slacking, from an engineering prowess perspective.

It was 1977 when Voyager first left Earth. . . and now over four decades on, she is facing her first truly daunting “age of components/years in service” test. She left some instruments on for too long, and burned through her power budget last week. . . as though she fell asleep with the TV on, out there — and now needs a nuclear battery reboot.

Unfortunately it takes 34 hours round-trip for commands [since she’s over 11.5 billion miles out]. . . so it will be a bit, yet before we know if the remedial commands have worked to restore normal operations. But if she cannot orient herself, to turn toward the sun — and effectively phone back to us — and relay an “all good; here’s the latest science data” message. . . she still will have served far longer than anyone ever imagined she could. If she now falls silent, into Milton’s eternal night, “powdered with stars” — we do know she is still only the second most distant human made object. . . we have ever put out into the void [Voyager 1 is beyond her now, and still operating, too]. Here’s the rest — from NASA:

. . . .In addition to managing each Voyager’s power supply, mission operators must also manage the temperature of certain systems on the spacecraft. If, for example, the spacecraft fuel lines were to freeze and break, Voyager would no longer be able to point its antenna back at Earth to send data and receive commands. The temperature of the spacecraft is maintained either through the use of heaters or by taking advantage of excess heat from other onboard instruments and systems.

It has taken the team several days to assess the current situation primarily because of Voyager 2’s distance from Earth — about 11.5 billion miles (18.5 billion kilometers). Communications traveling at the speed of light take about 17 hours to reach the spacecraft, and it takes another 17 hours for a response from the spacecraft to return to Earth. As a result, mission engineers have to wait about 34 hours to find out if their commands have had the desired effect on the spacecraft.

The Voyager spacecraft were built by JPL, which continues to operate both. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena. . . .

We will hold a good thought, in our meditations, for her — and hope that in the fading half-light of that hard-frozen stellar canyon — when all existence fades into silence. . . with her being, that a four count rythym — will cause an electron infused river to run through it, and back, to us. Back to where the river was cut, by the Universe’s great flood, and runs over planets hovering there, since the basement of time. Under the rocky planets’ surfaces are timeless raindrops, and under the raindrops are the words — her words to us, and my words. . . to her.

And I am. . . haunted, yet and still.

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