In a setback for NASA’s pioneering comet probe that hunted for planets beyond the solar system, the space agency has lost radio contact with its Deep Impact spacecraft.
NASA made the confirmation about the communication loss this week. The space agency held a software glitch responsible for loss of the contact.
Ground controllers say they lost communication with the probe sometime between August 11 and August 14.
Deep Impact was first launched in January 2005 to observe the Tempel 1 comet, and has since gone on to photograph and collect data on several others.
“The last communication was on August 8. After considerable effort, the team on August 30th determined the cause of the problem,” principal investigator Mike A’Hearn of the University of Maryland said in a statement this week. “The team is now trying to determine how best to try to recover communication.”
The NASA scientists have been trying to put Deep Impact in hibernate mode, but their attempts have so far proven unsuccessful.
According to the scientists, Deep Impact’s batteries are charged by onboard solar panels. The difficulty infront of the scientists is that they aren’t sure which way those panels are facing. If they’re faced toward the sun, the craft may continue to operate for a few more months. If they’re turned away from the sun, Deep Impact would shut down within a few days, and it would be impossible to revive it.