Published On: Mon, Jul 6th, 2015

Contact Lost By New Horizon From NASA And Entered In Safe Mode

NASA’s Deep Space Network. During the time it was out of contact with mission control, the spacecraft’s autonomous autopilot recognized the problem and did what it was programmed to do, switching from the main to the backup computer, according to NASA officials. The autopilot then commanded the backup computer to put New Horizons in ‘safe mode’ where all non-essential functions are shut down and restart communications with Earth.


During the time that it was out of contact with Earth, the probe’s “autonomous autopilot on board the spacecraft recognized a problem and as it is programmed to do in such a situation switched from the main to the backup computer.” New Horizons is presently almost 3 billion miles (4.9 billion km) from Earth. Due to the 8.8 hour, round trip communication delay, full recovery is expected to take from one to several days. During that time New Horizons will be unable to collect science data.

As yet, there is no word on whether this will ultimately interfere with the spacecraft’s planned July 14 rendezvous with Pluto. But nearly a decade after launch, the mission has already been sending science data back from this unexplored outermost region of our Solar System. Just last week, members of the probe’s science team announced the detection of frozen methane on the dwarf planet’s surface. A New Horizons Anomaly Review Board (ARB) was convened at 4 PM EDT to gather information on the problem and initiate a recovery plan, the space agency noted.

Success! We are now back in touch with the spacecraft and engineers are monitoring telemetry to figure out what went wrong. Recovery from the event is inherently hamstrung due to the 9-hour, round trip communication delay that the agency says “results from operating a spacecraft almost 3 billion miles (4.9 billion kilometers) from Earth.”

We can hope that NASA will get back the contact from ‘New Horizon.’