Whoops. NASA accidentally sent commands to Voyager 2 that cut off communications with the probe by pointing its antenna the wrong way.
The satellite is programmed to reset its orientation multiple times each year, which should resolve the issue. However, the next reset is expected to be on October 15, meaning that the spacecraft will be incommunicado until then.
NASA has revealed that a series of planned commands sent on July 21 inadvertently caused the antenna to point two degrees away from Earth, interrupting communication between Voyager 2 and the ground antennas of the Deep Space Network (DSN).
Voyager 2 is located almost 12.4 billion miles (19.9bn kilometers) from Earth, slightly closer than Voyager 1's 15bn mile- (24bn kilometer)-distance.
The second spacecraft to enter interstellar space, Voyager 2 was launched on August 20, 1977, and communicates at a continuous at a rate of 160 bits per second (when it can communicate).
Both Voyagers feature golden discs with messages, art, and music from mankind. “There were two audiences we designed for - one was the extraterrestrial audience, and that was the one that I was most concerned with, and the other was the message to ourselves,” Jon Lomberg, NASA's design director for the Golden Record, told DCD.
“In a sense, it was a message to ourselves, as well as a message to extraterrestrials saying this is a snapshot that one group of people thought would be a good capture of the Earth at this point in time.”