Space Mission: IBEX is Not Communicating with NASA

Image (Credit): Artist’s rendering of NASA’s IBEX spacecraft. (NASA)

NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) is having some problems. On February 18, the IBEX flight computer reset itself and placed the spacecraft into contingency mode. This is not good for it ongoing mission to map the boundary of our solar system. The spacecraft’s system should do a full reset again in a few days, so NASA may get a break and be able to communicate with IBEX again shortly.

The IBEX spacecraft was launched back in October 2018 as the first spacecraft specifically designed to collect data across the entire sky about the heliosphere and its boundary. The mission has already been very instructive, as NASA explains:

Scientists have used this [IBEX] data to make the first maps of our heliosphere boundary. Our heliosphere boundary does not emit light that we can detect, which means it would be impossible to image using conventional telescopes. Instead of collecting light, like other telescopes do, IBEX collects particles coming from the boundary so that we can learn about the processes occurring there. The boundary of the Solar System protects us from harmful cosmic rays. Without it, four times more cosmic rays would enter our Solar System and potentially damage our ozone layer and DNA. It is important to study this region to know how it works.

Image (Credit): Artist’s rending of our solar system’s heliosphere. (NASA/IBEX/Adler Planetarium)

Update: As of March 2, the IBEX spacecraft is fully functional again. You can read more about it here.