Spacecraft Lost During Test Found—22 Months Later

Welcome back, STEREO-B
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 23, 2016 3:00 PM CDT
After Almost 2 Years, NASA Finds Long-Lost Spacecraft
The two STEREO spacecraft.   (NASA)

In a tale of perseverance rivaling that of Westley looking for Buttercup in The Princess Bride, NASA never gave up on STEREO-B, a spacecraft that went missing 22 months ago while studying the sun. But CNN is now sharing the good news that the space agency has regained contact with the vessel using its Deep Space Network (think a juiced-up space version of our more Earth-focused telecommunications systems). Per the NASA website, the DSN "established a lock" with STEREO-B—the "STEREO" part stands for "Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory"—just before 6:30pm on Sunday. STEREO-B had been hurled into space in October 2006 alongside companion craft STEREO-A, sent out with a joint mission to study matter and energy flow between sun and Earth, with one of the crafts inside the Earth's orbit and one outside of it, per Gizmodo.

Things went amiss in October 2014, however, when the team decided to test a reset timer on STEREO-B designed to keep the craft working when it eventually moved to the opposite side of the sun and lost contact for more than three months. But the test went awry, and STEREO-B fell off the radar. The STEREO team didn't give up, tapping into the DSN's powerful radio antennas for nine hours a week to reestablish contact. But even though STEREO-B is now back in scientists' sights, a STEREO team member tells Business Insider "the very hard and scary work is just beginning": When they turn STEREO-B's computer system back on to check its condition, they'll have about two minutes before its battery drains to send a fix to keep its solar recharging system working. As for STEREO-A, it’s been chugging along nonplussed this whole time. (NASA's research is now online—for free.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.