NASA fires Voyager 1’s engines for the first time in 37 years

By Leah Crane

It’s alive! By firing a set of thrusters that have been gathering dust for more than 3 decades, NASA has extended the lifetime of the Voyager 1 mission by a few years.

The interstellar probe is 13 billion miles away, moving at a speed of over 17 kilometres per second, but it still manages to send messages back to Earth. In order to do that, it needs to keep its antenna pointed towards us.

After 40 years in space, the thrusters that orient the spacecraft and keep its antenna aiming in the right direction have started to break down.

NASA engineers decided to try firing the craft’s backup thrusters, which have been dormant for 37 years. Then, they had to wait 19 hours and 35 minutes to get a signal from Voyager 1 at the edge of our solar system. The long shot worked, and NASA scientists plan to fully switch over to the backup thrusters in 2020.

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