SOHO's Triumphant Return

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Science  18 Dec 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5397, pp. 2156
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5397.2156b

Early in 1998, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) was a hugely successful spacecraft, gathering data on solar outbursts from its secure vantage between Earth and the sun. Astronomers were gearing up to observe a maximum in solar activity around 2001. Then, on 24 June, disaster struck: After a series of ground-control errors, the spacecraft spun wildly out of control. Its batteries drained when its solar panels rotated away from the sun, and it lost all contact with Earth.

But the craft was lost in space for only a few months. In an almost miraculous comeback, as SOHO moved on in orbit its orientation changed, so that the solar panels again faced the sun. The batteries recharged and radio contact was reestablished with a cheering ground control on 3 August. By year's end, the craft was back in position, practically all instruments were online—and SOHO was enjoying its place in the sun once more.

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