NASA has somehow managed to spot its estranged spacecraft STEREO. It was lost nearly 2 years before and now it has been in contact again.
Space is the final frontier. It is also a vast and empty desert where you cannot hear yourself scream since there is a vacuum and sound waves need air to travel.
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Thus if you are lost in space, there is hardly any chance of anyone finding you. Yet, NASA managed to find a lost spacecraft which it had launched with a a little help from its sophisticated technology and highly skilled staff.
STEREO-B took off on a tangent two years back and was not found for quite some time. The team on earth could not locate it no matter how hard they tried.
On Sunday, however, the experts were able to establish contact with it. That was almost 22 months of constant searching. A decade ago, STEREO-B and STEREO-A began two-year long missions.
The goal was to provide measurements of the sun’s flow of energy to our home planet. One of the missions was inside earth’s orbit and the other one was outside it. This scheme would allow the sun’s energy to be measured from various angles.
Yet problems arose as Murphy’s Law says: if anything can go wrong, it will! One of the spacecraft began to veer off into the wrong direction. The three month long interregnum during which there would be no communication had not been forseen by the experts at NASA.
The very fact and act had been overlooked by the staff of NASA at the time of the inception of the mission. The sun emits strong wavelengths into the vacuum of space, making it the biggest source of radiation in the solar system.
The sun’s interference usually lasts a day or two, yet in case of the two spacecrafts, it lasted for four months, according to NASA.
The team back on earth received weak signals from the spacecraft that was STEREO-B. Then they heard the last signal as it petered out. The spacecraft was literally lost in space.
On Aug. 21, 2016, NASA reestablished contact with the sun-watching STEREO-B spacecraft, after communications were lost in October 2014. STEREO-B is one of two spacecraft of the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory mission, which over the course of their lifetime have viewed the sun from vantage points such as the ones shown here, on the other side of the sun from Earth. This graphic shows the positions of the two STEREO spacecraft and their orbits in relation to Earth, Venus, Mercury and the sun. Credits: NASA
Only on Sunday, after a long time, did the staff of NASA pick up signals coming from STEREO-B. One of the sensors of the spacecraft had failed thereby breaking all connections with the earth.
It was a long search that had borne fruit in the end. The staff of NASA had almost been convinced that contact with this spacecraft was a lost cause.
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Still, half the battle remains. To control the spacecraft and steer it back on its right path is still an unaccomplished fact. NASA’s team of experts is working on the problem and they will hopefully be successful at the task with the passage of time.