The only times the astronauts got word from Earth was when their orbital path brought them in range of outgoing radio transmissions; that only happened once a year.
Most of the time, the silence was ignored, relegated to the back of their minds. It was, after all, too distantly spaced apart for any anticipation or expectation to exist.
Still, they kept the radio on 23/9. There was that part of them which always asked… ‘What if?’ no matter how low the odds, or ridiculous the idea.
It was, of course, unbelievably shocking when the radio crackled to life a full 9 months ahead of schedule. Then the static resolved, and a voice spoke clearly:
“I’m outside. Open up.”