Over the weekend, NASA lost contact with its New Horizons spacecraft for an hour for reasons unknown. This is generally not a good thing when you’re working with technology that’s 4.5 light-hours away, but thankfully, NASA seems to have solved the problem.
According to NASA, the problem was caused by a “hard-to-detect timing flaw in the spacecraft command sequence that occurred during an operation to prepare for the close flyby [of Pluto]”. That timing flaw put New Horizons into safe mode, also causing a collective pants-shitting at NASA.
With the problem detected, New Horizons can resume normal science operations on Tuesday, and prepare for the July 14 flyby of Pluto. Although some science observations were lost as a result of the two-day-long shutdown of normal operations, it’s not regarded as a big deal by NASA: “In terms of science, it won’t change an A-plus even into an A,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute.