NASA just fired up the thrusters for the Voyager 1 spacecraft, something that has happened in an astonishing 37 years.
A truly remarkable event just happened many, many miles from our Earth, as NASA fired up the thrusters on the ancient Voyager 1 spacecraft, something it hasn’t done in a staggering 37 years. Voyager 1 is the fastest and farthest spacecraft in NASA’s arsenal, and it’s the only man-made object that has reached interstellar space.
It has been flying for 40 years and currently uses thrusters to orient itself so it can send back communications to Earth. These puffs can last for just milliseconds and rotate the spacecraft ever so slightly to align the antenna with our planet. The thrusters used recently were backup thrusters that haven’t been used since 1980.
By doing this, NASA was able to extend Voyager 1’s life by another two or three years, the agency said in a statement. Currently, Voyager 1 is about 13 billion miles from Earth. For comparison’s sake, that’s nearly three times the distance between Earth and Pluto.
“With these thrusters that are still functional after 37 years without use, we will be able to extend the life of the Voyager 1 spacecraft by two to three years,” said Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
“The Voyager flight team dug up decades-old data and examined the software that was coded in an outdated assembler language, to make sure we could safely test the thrusters,” said Chris Jones, chief engineer at JPL.