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Sunday, December 03, 2017

The Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched in 1977, has fired up a pair of thrusters that haven't been used for 37 years. The set of four small thrusters came online Wednesday after NASA engineers noticed the spacecraft's attitude control thrusters had been degrading for several years. Those served to make minute adjustments to the craft's orientation to keep its antenna pointed back at Earth and maintain communications with us as it flies through space. Thankfully, Voyager also has another similar set, called trajectory control maneuver thrusters, that were used in the years after its launch to guide the craft around the various planets it passed on the way out of the solar system. Past Saturn, though, those thrusters were no longer needed and they went cold. Now, almost four decades later, they've come back to life without a hitch to take over for the failing attitude control thrusters.

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The feat required engineers to unearth data from decades ago, as well as refamiliarize themselves with an outdated computer language. Using the thrusters will take some extra energy, a precious commodity for the aging spacecraft, but NASA says the maneuver will add a few years to the mission's life.

Traveling at almost 40,000 miles per hour, Voyager 1 is one of the fastest things we've ever put into space. It's currently over 13 billion miles away from our planet and passed into interstellar space back in 2012. Data still flows from Voyager to Earth, though it takes around 19 hours to make the trip. That trickle of information will stop in 2025 when the radioisotope thermoelectric generators cease to provide enough power to run any instruments.

Comments

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"They just don't make them like they used to.."

#1 | Posted by GOnoles92 at 2017-12-03 11:03 AM | Reply

Ray did the same thing last year at a strip joint.

Obligatory:

VGER

www.youtube.com

#2 | Posted by Corky at 2017-12-04 12:50 AM | Reply | Funny: 3

NASA, America at its greatest, for less than the cost of our pizzas.

#3 | Posted by bayviking at 2017-12-04 08:05 AM | Reply

Astonishing achievement by NASA, USA and the human race.

Now, back to reality with some Trump Twitter garbage.

#4 | Posted by CrisisStills at 2017-12-04 01:01 PM | Reply

"Ray did the same thing last year at a strip joint.
#2 | POSTED BY CORKY"

Fake news. Ray's failed attempt to fire his thruster is not the same as Voyager's successful thruster use.

#5 | Posted by mOntecOre at 2017-12-04 02:21 PM | Reply | Funny: 3

It might have helped if there was an altitude controller instead of an attitude controller! :)

#6 | Posted by PikaDemon at 2017-12-04 03:00 PM | Reply

The feat required engineers to unearth data from decades ago, as well as refamiliarize themselves with an outdated computer language.

uuhuh... the outdated computer language is called FORTH... and it is very much alive ... www.forth.com

Here is just a partial list of NASA FORTH apps. There is a lot more but it's still classified.

web.archive.org

#7 | Posted by Pegasus at 2017-12-04 06:51 PM | Reply

Forth has been used successfully in large, complex projects, while applications developed by competent, disciplined professionals have proven to be easily maintained on evolving hardware platforms over decades of use.

Forth has a niche both in astronomical and space applications. Forth is still used today in many embedded systems (small computerized devices) because of its portability, efficient memory use, short development time, and fast execution speed.

#8 | Posted by Pegasus at 2017-12-04 07:03 PM | Reply

Pretty cool story.

Amazing what science and engineering can do.

Amazing what we can do when we come together to fund innovation.

#9 | Posted by BruceBanner at 2017-12-05 12:53 PM | Reply

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