“NASA Mission Update: Voyager 2 Communications Pause”

Artist’s concept of Voyager spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech). Maybe the James Webb Space Telescope could snap actual photos of the Voyager probes.

UPDATE, Aug. 4, 2023: NASA has reestablished full communications with Voyager 2. The agency’s Deep Space Network facility in Canberra, Australia, sent the equivalent of an interstellar “shout” more than 12.3 billion miles (19.9 billion kilometers) to Voyager 2, instructing the spacecraft to reorient itself and turn its antenna back to Earth. With a one-way light time of 18.5 hours for the command to reach Voyager, it took 37 hours for mission controllers to learn whether the command worked. At 12:29 a.m. EDT on Aug. 4, the spacecraft began returning science and telemetry data, indicating it is operating normally and that it remains on its expected trajectory.

UPDATE, Aug. 1, 2023: Using multiple antennas, NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) was able to detect a carrier signal from Voyager 2. A carrier signal is what the spacecraft uses to send data back to Earth. The signal is too faint for data to be extracted, but the detection confirms that the spacecraft is still operating. The spacecraft also continues on its expected trajectory. Although the mission expects the spacecraft to point its antenna at Earth in mid-October, the team will attempt to command Voyager sooner, while its antenna is still pointed away from Earth. To do this, a DSN antenna will be used to “shout” the command to Voyager to turn its antenna. This intermediary attempt may not work, in which case the team will wait for the spacecraft to automatically reset its orientation in October. Once the spacecraft’s antenna is realigned with Earth, communications should resume.

A series of planned commands sent to NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft July 21 inadvertently caused the antenna to point 2 degrees away from Earth. As a result, Voyager 2 is currently unable to receive commands or transmit data back to Earth.


Comment: I heard this story on the BBC over the weekend. It was narrated in a far more melodramatic and interesting style than the dry NASA updates. It began with the commands sent to Voyager 2 on 21 July containing an error that caused the craft to shift its antenna 2 degrees out of whack. The human error in this was almost avoided. A check of the code revealed the error and a new command file was coded. Unfortunately, when it came time to send the code, the original code containing the error was sent rather than the corrected code. Talk about a face-palm moment.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the code was written in machine language so I also wouldn’t be surprised there was an error. I am surprised that the faulty code was still in a position that it could be sent by mistake. Wouldn’t it be immediately isolated from the operational networks as soon as the error was discovered? Aparently not. But I guarantee new procedures have been developed to ensure this kind of file mix up doesn’t happen again. 

The good news in this story is that, even if the rescue “shout out” failed, a failsafe was written into Voyager’s code that would have reset to default in October. That’s some far thinking coding. I know that a program running continuously for an extended period of time tends to accumulate small errors. At some point those errors will lead to a failure. For that reason it was common to reset or reboot a program periodically to avoid an unexpected catastrophic failure. I don’t know if that’s the case now. It was in the days of MS-DOS. I’ll have to ask my sons about that.


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23 Responses to “NASA Mission Update: Voyager 2 Communications Pause”

  1. blue peacock says:

    Voyager is an incredible spacecraft. Traveling in interstellar space. The furthest a man-made object has gone. Launched in the late 70s and still going…

  2. ked says:

    it’s ironic in technological man’s insatiable urge for instantaneous communications that one of the most impressive accomplishments relies upon a data link having latency increasing at every moment in service to the literal expansion of tangible knowledge. a sort of entanglement on a human scale.

    • Peter Hug says:

      It would be nice if we could have ansibles, but I think that the latency here is not really something we’re in a position to do anything about. 🙂

      That said, I think it’s insanely cool that both Voyagers are still working, and that “shouting” at Voyager 2 worked.

      …and if I don’t reboot my Mac Mini every week or so I can count on it crashing unpredictably and wasting half a day to come back up.

      • F&L says:

        If nature didn’t have the speed of light limit it’s doubtful life as we know it could have developed. The SOL – c – isn’t sped up or slowed down if you move a flashlight’s beam with or against the direction of a speeding train or rocket ship. If it was, imagine the interior of a living organism – say a flower petal or your finger. You move it one way, say forward. Then the electromagnetic waves within it – which must in various ways be fundamental to the correct workings of the organism – would go faster in one direction than the others. Wouldn’t be likely to work at all especially at high speeds of motion. God knew this when he created the cosmos out of nothing? I guess so. There’s no free lunch. Now close your eyes, KH, here comes the forbidden anagram section: ‘Ansible’ is an anagram of which of the LGBTQ+ categories? Ursula K Le Quin, who coined the term, declared herself to be that way at one point in her life.

  3. F&L says:

    From the doghouse. (aka F&L)

    Despite my unvenerable balefullness, I refrain from mentioning the irony of being somehow unable to notice the inclusion above of reference to the well known mass delusion being promoted by the Pentagon – namely the UFOs who certainly must be involved in this communication snafu. Nor will I expose the thankless Capitalist & Wall Street swindling I discovered this morning due to the fact that the Google and other search engines use the ancient Talmudic reasoning technology of free association in their algorithms.** (Note below)

    To wit – after my browser had visited TTG’s article above, and after noticing this piece immediately afterwards which contains very interesting information that I should perhaps return to later regarding a fascinating conversation between Lucasian Professor of Mathematics and Nobel Laureate in Physics (for his prediction, by means of an improvement on Schrodinger’s equation, of the existence of Antimatter) and the great British Astrophysicist Fowler concerning the lifetime of our star The Sun, which was exceedingly difficult to find (and I suspect for very good reason), which took place in the early fifties.


    Namely after visiting that link after TTG’s this appeared on Row 1, position 2 of my living room TV’s YouTube feed:

    Туманность Андромеды (1967) фильм

    Soviet Science Fiction Film: Туманность Андрломеда (The Andromeda Nebula).

    Reading that article, or the linked one to the book from which it came, you discover that “Darth Vader” of StarWars is originally the character Dar Veder played by Sergei Stolyarov.

    ** Which Freud, whose name so resembles Fraud, thievishly misappropriated to his own account in his theories of psychoanalysis. He included humor, wordplay and numerology too, along with dream analysis, because he very perceptively understood that his job as a therapist was to unblock his patients, and that all those techniques were real tools for unlocking the 98% or more of human brainpower trapped within the unconscious. Now is it correct to say that the internet search algorithms actually, with conscious intent or Turing-machine design, utililize the ancient techniques of free association? Or do they virtue of their access to huge databases and personal browsing and social media histories somehow simulate the human subconscious which Freud understood to be so intimately linked to desire and other libidinal passions, as shopping records surely reflect?
    Well, to avoid the death penalty from the crowd shouting “so what?” and craving red meat (I wouldn’t mind a tasty hamburger on toasted 7 grain bun with tomato a cheese medium rare myself at the moment) let me add this from the world’s greatest Zeihanist, none other than Peter Zeihan:

    Russia’s Largest Port Comes Under Fire / Peter Zeihan:

    I do so because I was accused of being insane or batshit crazy by this site’s proprietor because of mention of the possible likelihood of TNW use in the future. Well, Mr Zeihan is not considered insane. And he says Russia is up a creek without a canoe in the not too distant future. Really hosed, to use his terminology. I’m not Zeihan or Kissinger but it seems to me that’s not far off as an estimate. We are laboring through the period of the year when those bombings of yore took place – Zeihan himself mentioned that either in this video or the one immediately precedent. So being called possibly batshit crazy for pointing out with alarm the straits we with our allies have navigated ourselves into is not something I either deserve or appreciate.

    Maybe one day I can relate Professor Dirac’s conversation on the lifetime of the sun, recorded by a very diligent and excellent Scandinavian intelligence agent or officer, masquerading as often as a reporter and professor of something. But not if I’m going to be called batshit crazy.

    • walrus says:

      Zeihan reminds me of my days in the software and system integration industry. Every two years a guru would come along with a new paradigm to sell us that was going to fix everything or put us out of business if we didn’t grab it with both hands right nowwwwwwww!

      Examples: Software architecture, object oriented programming, software engineering tools, Business process re-engineering, lean sigma black belt, triple bottom lines, decentralisation, recentralisation, etc., etc.

      …….So when I chanced upon Peter Z. on. youtube with his whole demography shtick, I felt a familiar stirring in my loins! I remembered the heady days of youth – crouched around the boardroom table as the guru gave us our future – then pocketed $200,000. Peter is just so absolutely sure of himself! Of course when things don’t come to pass like Peter says there is always an anomaly like covid to blame because demography doesn’t lie! Everything is logical and pre ordained.

      Yes Americanhas some wunnerful transport logistics like the Mississippi system,the bakkennshale and suchlike that should make us preeminent,however we also have a batshit crazy ruling class and the crème de la crème of our educated youth are devoting their time to gender studies, micro aggression and esoteric forms of sexual dysfunction while busily trying to demolish the society that gave them a high standard of living.

      Sorry Pete, human stupidity and evil trump demographics every day. My advice to Peter Z is to beg borrow or steal a copy of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, read it and then tell me with a straight face about demowhatsits.

      • F&L says:

        Yes, I remember when they were forcing Object Oriented programming into the AP computer science curriculum nationwide. I objected strenuously, telling them it wasn’t necessary or wise or motivating for kids starting out, rather the opposite. Of course I was a nobody and ignored. Then Bjarne Stroustrup himself showed up at a parents teacher conference at the national level – the guy (genius) who actually invented the C++ language. He went fairly ballistic explaining to the higher ups of the college board that what they were doing was absolutely nuts. Didn’t matter. I left the field, the people in charge were a perfect example of the Borg or maybe the Stalinist bureaucracy – which was actually at one time studied by corporate America with an eye to implementing it’s fearful control through terror. I still wonder if the Black sea thing isn’t very troublesome for Ru. Supposedly Putin is meeting soon with Erdogan but today there was a big explosion in a Turkish Black sea port which handles grains. Let them sort it out. Speaking of turkeys – Peter Zeihan. Two destroyers in the Indian ocean and in 50 years 750 million Chinese will vanish. Straight from the mouth of the Zeihanist himself. I’d advise him to be very choosy in selecting tanning salons or massage parlors.

        • leith says:

          What? Corporatism and their immaculate & perfectly designed 5-Year plans! You might have to help me out with the numerology though. I can’t figure whether it deals with Stalin’s webbed toes or Shaitan’s pentagram or …?

          • F&L says:


            That thing about corporates borrowing from Stalinist methods is cribbed from a book I read a very long time ago – a biography of Stalin by an Englishman who had worked in corporate management at a high level. It applied, in his opinion to some significant part of corporate culture of his era, not necessarily the present. Sorry, I should have clarified. I lost my rather too large personal library in a fire years ago, and because it was purchased in a real bookstore circa 1979 I can’t find it in my Amazon orders history. It’s certainly out of print. If I locate a link to it I’ll let you know here later. It wasn’t a particularly fabulous bio, inconsistent and curious in some ways, but it wasn’t propaganda either and the author had an interesting mind.

        • leith says:

          Amazon, Bezos’ abomination! May the shame be with you always. I thought you lived in New Yaawk. Isn’t The Strand still open or some other independent bookshop?

          Or send me the name of that bio and I’ll check it next time I go browsing at Powell’s City of Books in Stumptown OR, and snailmail you a copy.

      • billy roche says:

        Walrus; why cant/won’t Voyageur go on forever. There is no longer anything to stop it. Gravitational pulls from unknown big rocks might reroute it but is that a real possibility? I think we have sent a ship into infinity.

        • Barbara Ann says:

          The Voyager spacecraft will travel on essentially forever into the infinity emptiness of interstellar space. After 46 years what is more of a surprise – that Voyager 2 is still transmitting a signal, or that the ingenious but wildly self destructive folk who launched her are still here to receive it?

        • F&L says:

          I wonder if it could get stuck orbiting something. Would still be useful if so. Don’t know enough about its workings to know. A cosmic ray burst could muck up its electronics if energetic enough. Maybe some math wizard will estimate the likelihood of nonexistence of ET life based on it having survived so far, but that would be fairly dubious.

          Meanwhile, back on planet Mirth:

          Christopher Allen went down to the yard,
          A penguins life is very hard,
          Said Alice ..


  4. scott s. says:

    When I was stationed at the missile lab in Pt Hueneme, CA our local IEEE hosted a talk by an antenna engineer from JPL. Totally amazing stuff.

    As far as SQA, it would be interesting to hear the full story. Coming from the DoD environment, in my time the SEI at CMU and Watts Humphrey was all the rage. As a tactical computer system we had the Ada programming language to contend with and a push to incorporate OOP. Looking back I think if we had been allowed to just develop with C life would have been a lot easier. Of course this was back in the days before “Agile” became a thing. But having a hard requirement for ordnance, flight, and nuclear weapon security/safety I’m not sure developing with Python on VS Code with MS Code Pilot AI and random PyPi libraries would get the job done.

    • F&L says:

      I had a close friend who coded for Librascope (Navy stuff) way back when. I played blitz chess with his RI buddies who were quite a crew – mostly coders, replete with junior math high achievement awards. Huge quantities of pot. The most interesting guy was a silent genius with a gigantic beard of whom it was said that he could actually debug machine code for several platforms without needing reference materials. Evidently a skill worth huge bucks in consulting. My friend left me with the impression that much of what you refer to was indeed related to security but on the other hand the need for eternal redoings of everything from software to hardware was driven by the MIC corporate behemoth’s unsatiable appetite for contracts contracts contracts. As he explained it, those company’s execs knew quite well just how much money several million lines of weapon system code for one ship was worth and precisely how to make it necessary, in advance, to redo the coding. Those guys seemed to know how crazy it was but they loved their work. I personally hated all the new languages and it turned me off from pursuing the field on a professional level. Guys in the know told me that early versions of the windows OS or one of the top C compilers (I can’t recall) were actually coded in Pascal. Quite a culture. They knew assembler and machine coding so thoroughly and were so professionally proud that when I was struggling to learn C they would chuckle “so you’re friend wants to be a C weenie, huh? Is that what you do in New Yaaawk?” (New Yorkers were despised.)
      Great guys on balance. Those were the days when a chess program that could defeat a grandmaster seemed a century away, and defeating an average player at Go seemed likely impossible ever. My dad, a professional physicist, had the greatest respect for Antenna engineers by the way. They discovered profound things that the general physics community really didn’t know about for years, possibly if not likely because it was kept secret. It was an effect that allowed astrophysicists to actually determine the diameter of stars via VLBI, though I think it had to be rediscovered independently because of the professional compartmentalization and haughtiness over “mere engineers.” What a joke. A mere Captain in the mere US Army solved the problem of the origin of heat which eluded Galileo, Newton, Lavoisier, Maxwell (possibly) and everyone else.

  5. F&L says:

    Possibly off topic so I will be happy to resubmit on another thread. Pleading my case I’d offer that it’s on topic components are
    A) Does intelligent life exist anywhere, since on Earth and especially in California it certainly doesn’t?
    B) Mentions surgery, which involves science, sort of.
    C) Are Democrats from another planet?
    D) What’s up with the substring “FUN” in all caps in the YT link? If Hacking then it’s scientific in a spaceyish sort of way.

    In California it’s illegal for a child under 18 yoa to use a tanning bed in a tanning salon but it’s ok to surgically modify the … stuff. Dore, the amazing genius sensationalist self promoter that he is, carefully omits that letting kids go to tanning salons is a whole ‘nother issue in itself – say hello to the nice retired prostitutes and pimps running those places, children. Jimmy is very protective of young d*cks and p*ssies here, so I guess Bert Weinstein is the specially honored special guest. Special.

    Dems WALK OUT on video about gender affirming surgery:

  6. F&L says:

    I am slow. But finally I’ve figured it out. Into my eighth decade – slow as I said.

    Count Dracula’s High Alpine Carpathian Castle was relocated to the Supreme Court Building in Washington DC.

    How it was accomplished I’m not sure of yet. Nor whether the original which seems to still be in Transylvania is a hologram or fake replacement, no idea. Several years ago I managed to understand that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue had become 1600 Transylvania Avenue. If you need help understanding why Penns became Trans – consult your passport stamps or call your local parole board or mental hospital because you were either out of the country for a very long time, were imprisoned in solitary confinement or have been mentally impaired of late, tragically.

    By 5-4 Vote, Supreme Court Revives Biden’s Regulation of ‘Ghost Guns’
    The federal government, citing a rise in violence involving untraced firearms, had asked the justices to step in. The court provisionally allowed the regulation while a challenge moves forward.
    The Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily revived the Biden administration’s regulation of “ghost guns” — kits that can be bought online and assembled into untraceable homemade firearms.

    In defending the rule, a key part of President Biden’s broader effort to address gun violence, administration officials said such weapons had soared in popularity in recent years, particularly among criminals barred from buying ordinary guns.

    The court’s brief order gave no reasons, which is typical when the justices act on emergency applications. The order was provisional, leaving the regulation in place while a challenge moves forward in the courts.

    The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Amy Coney Barrett joining the court’s three liberal members — Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson — to form a majority. (See link for the rest but obviously they aren’t saying anything // such as “it took you freaking reactionary brain dead neanderthals a bit of a while, eh wot?”

    • TTG says:


      Don’t see the problem with this at all. Gun kits can still be sold, but the receivers all need to be serial numbered just like fully assembled firearms. Also this doesn’t affect the many black powder firearms kits on the market. I’m surprised no one has challenged the restrictions on fully automatic weapons or explosive devices yet.

      • F&L says:

        Not sure I understand you. I was facetiously agreeing that it’s good they – the court – made this infinitesimal baby step. Or are you a 2nd amendment literalist? Many professional military men seem to be. I’ve met several in my perambulations across this great land these last .70+ centuries. Some of the gun collections I saw might even impress you a bit. Or are you humorously saying that you’re surprised the crazies haven’t objected to not being allowed to pack their own personal cruise missiles carrying explosive warheads? In that case I’m as surprised too. They’d have their own atomic arsenals too if they weren’t watched. Some crazies already have them for years now. The guys I met were colonels and professionals who knew how to control trained killers. The average person in the society we have here doesn’t need an arsenal in his basement. You watched the Blm era riots with the nitwits cosplaying with ARs and AKs – didn’t that turn your stomach, metaphorically speaking? Or was that all some fancy secret security system everyone pretends is antifa while giggling at us dopes with college degrees who can’t figure out it’s the Army protecting us? Sure fooled me, unfunding the cops etc to supplement the deception if so. I remember a car mechanic I worked with as a kid who used to bring his black powder old time six gun into the shop and try to impress the Sicilian guys. They were generally silent around the help so I don’t know what they thought but even though he was a well above average mechanic he was fired a couple of weeks after bringing in the gun. I asked why and got a typical answer like “he keeps saying someone’s stealing his previous snap on tools. Look I’m not saying they ain’t good tools but he keeps going out to the snap on tool truck every time it pulls in here and now all the mechanics go out there for ten minutes lookin at *++**in snap on tools. You think I need this ..?”
        It was obviously a bs answer but a good one. Bring a gun into a Sicilian American car repair shop during the years 196X – 197X and shoot it! Saying “it’s black powder just like the old days!” And then mutter to someone you think likes you for some impossible to fathom reason – “these dumb dagos don’t know sh*t about guns!” While brilliantly thinking to yourself “they didn’t hear me and they’ll never find out what I said..” And then what? Get fired! Mysterious, right? By the way, those guys in the movie are pretty darn impressive. And very handsome. On a par with my old crazy pap Joe Klune, handsomewise. Not as tough though. Golden Globes light heavyweight champ NY State 196? (don’t know). But he was the handsomest man God ever put on earth and that guy with the moustache is a close second. Joe was not even close to being as tough as the Sicilians who owned that repair shop though. He passed away a few years ago, sadly. The stories that could be told .. . Fire a black smoke pistol in a Sicilian auto repair shop. Say to a worker these dumb dagos don’t know anything about guns. And probably watched The Godfather. And the fellow thought he was god’s personal gift to the big wide world. And so illuminated with wisdom that he might have believed he was fired because of the snapon tool truck. Didn’t use those crummy Sears tools, they weren’t good enough for him. And the dumb dago who owned the shop went to NYU on a full scholarship and also got a masters degree in Engineering before or after the Marine Corps, which he despised. Because guess what the drill instructors would call him?

        • TTG says:


          I guess I did misunderstand what you were saying. I thought you were railing against limits being put on ghost guns. Perhaps we are in agreement that there is no legitimate need for such weapons. If you want to handcraft one yourself in your own machine shop, so be it. That’s an interesting hobby. I think handcrafting a fine Pennsylvania style black powder rifle would be a better hobby. I bought a book on that many decades ago, but I’m not a machinist.

          • F&L says:

            Right Oh. I prayed to God you weren’t one of those crazies. Joking just a bit. My dad wouldn’t allow a real gun anywhere near the house because, I suspect, he didn’t trust his own hair trigger temper.

            The Russians got hit really hard at Sergey Plosad. They’re freaking out on Telegram. It’s maybe a military optics factory site where fireworks were stored, unclear. It’s also a site of one of the first significant Churches they ever had – and it’s in the outskirts of Moscow. And hometown of legendary icon painter Andrey Rubylev immortalized by Tarkovsky.

            Sergey Plosad:
            (Scroll up or down. Several videos)

            A strong fire in Kurchatov, Kursk region (a city at the Kursk nuclear power plant).

            According to eyewitnesses, the hearth is located on the roof of a residential building on Leningradskaya Street.
            I love the Russian people but their leaders are delusional cretins. We had Donald Trump. DT stands for delirium tremens but he didn’t need whiskey to see pink elephants. I don’t know what VVP might stand for. I have some ideas: Very Venal P_ . What a damn pity.

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