NASA Loses Contact With New Horizons; Pluto Spacecraft Enters ‘Safe Mode’
Ten days before NASA ’s New Horizons spacecraft was due to make its closest approach to Pluto, the space agency reports that at 1:54 PM EDT on the afternoon of July 4th local U.S. time, it lost contact with the $700 million unmanned flyby mission for more than an hour and twenty minutes. Controllers were able to regain a signal from the probe via NASA’s Deep Space Network at 3:15 PM. EDT, but as a result, the spacecraft’s systems have entered safe mode until mission engineers can diagnose the problem.
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’s programmed to do in such a situation – switched from the main to the backup computer,” NASA reports in a statement issued via Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab, which manages the mission for the space agency. NASA says “the autopilot placed the spacecraft in “safe mode,” and commanded the backup computer to reinitiate communication with Earth.”