NASA fires 'Voyager 1' after 37 years

They are identical to the primary control thrusters, but the problem was that they hadn't been used since 1980, when the spacecraft flew past Saturn.

The condition of thrusters, called "attitude control thrusters", which were being used to orient the spacecraft, started detioriating after 2014 and a new way had to be discovered to keep its antenna pointing the right direction.

Since nobody can physically check the condition of a probe 13 billion miles away, the team first gathered experts to assess the situation. They got their answer 19 hours and 35 minutes later, the time it took for the results to reach Earth: The set of four thrusters worked perfectly.

Voyager 1 is the most distant human-made object, and scientists announced in 2013 the craft's crossing of the boundary between the sun's influence and interstellar space, making it the first mission to explore the void between the stars.

Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California said that with these thrusters that are still working after 37 years without use, we would be capable of extending the life of the Voyager 1 spacecraft by two to three years.

Voyager 1 was launched in 1977 and flew past Jupiter and Saturn in 1979 and 1980 respectively.

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"The Voyager team got more excited each time with each milestone in the thruster test", stated JPL engineer Todd Barber, adding, "The mood was one of relief, joy, and incredulity after witnessing these well-rested thrusters pick up the baton as if no time had passed at all", cited by Ars Technica.

Jones, chief engineer at JPL, stated that the Voyager flight team dug up decades-old data and tested the software that was coded in an old assembler language, to make sure we could safely test the thrusters.

After activating the trajectory correction maneuver thrusters on Voyager 1, NASA revealed they intend to do the same for the probe's twin, Voyager 2.

Nasa has fired the backup thrusters of Voyager 1, it's fastest and farthest space probe travelling through interstellar space, and effectively "extended its life". It did. After almost four decades of dormancy, the Aerojet Rocketdyne manufactured thrusters fired perfectly. Humanity's farthest and longest-lived spacecraft are celebrating 40 years in August and September 2017. These thrusters fire in small pulses, lasting mere milliseconds, to subtly rotate the spacecraft so that its antenna points at our planet.

The team will switch over to the TCM thrusters in January, but there is a drawback: they require heaters to operate, which will draw on the probe's limited power. They will likely also conduct similar tests on the backup thrusters on Voyager 2.

Illustration of the paths of Voyager 1 and 2.

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