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Credit: NASA

NASA just found a spacecraft that's been silent for two years



NASA just reestablished contact with a spacecraft that's been missing for nearly two years. 

NASA lost touch with its Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatories, known as the STEREO-B spacecraft, on Oct. 1, 2014. 

STEREO-B and its sister spacecraft, STEREO-A, were launched back in October of 2006. They were originally designed to complete a two-year mission, which was supposed to end in 2008 -- but they lasted much longer. 

NASA | STEREO Solar Conjunction

According to NASA, the two STEREO spacecraft have helped "scientists studying the sun and its influence throughout the solar system." 

Both STEREO spacecraft drifted away from Earth while orbiting the Earth. One stayed ahead of the planet as the other lagged behind, giving scientists a view of the whole sun at once for the first time. 

STEREO-B went silent in October 2014 when mission control tested it "command loss timer," which is an automatic reset button that restarts the spacecraft after 72 hours without contact. 

The restart was meant to correct any issues that could prevent communication. 

Initially, STEREO-B was never meant to lose contact with mission control, but because it survived longer than expected, scientists were preparing for a time when the sun would prevent communication with the spacecraft. 

"The sun emits strongly in nearly every wavelength, making it the biggest source of noise in the sky," Dan Ossing, mission operations manager for the STEREO mission at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory said in a statement. "Most deep space missions only have to deal with sun interference for a day or so, but for each of the STEREO spacecraft, this period lasted nearly four months."

"We had to take a spacecraft that was meant to talk to Earth every day and get it ready for over three months of radio silence," Ossing added.

Now after 22 months of silence, STEREO-B is back in touch with NASA. 

Scientists are still working to determine whether the spacecraft is capable of resuming its scientific duties with STEREO-A. 

For more news, check out today's 60 Second Circa. 

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