Over the weekend, NASA reestablished contact with a spacecraft, STEREO-B, that had been lost for over 22 months. This sounds exactly like the beginning of a horror movie.
STEREO-B, which is part of NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observations, was sent on a mission beginning in 2006 to take measurements of the sun’s flow of energy. But following a routine test in October 2014, communications with the spacecraft were lost.
Initially, scientists anticipated contact with STEREO-B would be lost for only a few months, but that stretched to nearly two years.
Compounding the loss of contact was the spacecraft’s orbit, which took it to the far side of the sun. According to NASA, once satellites are on that side, radio receivers on Earth cannot distinguish between satellite signals and the sun’s radiation. STEREO-B lost contact before it arrived at the far side of the sun and never came back online. Miraculously, contact was reestablished this past Sunday.
Although STEREO-B has been found, scientists say the spacecraft isn’t quite out of the woods yet. Because it hadn’t been in contact with Earth for almost two years, NASA needs to determine whether or not it’s healthy enough to carry on with its solar research. The fact that it’s communicating at all is a good sign, but the spacecraft’s instruments still need to be evaluated to see if they’re functioning properly.
According to NASA, determining whether or not STEREO-B is healthy enough to carry on could take a while. For now, it’s out there floating through space, found but not entirely home-free just yet.