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Space & Astronomy

Voyager 1 fires up dormant backup thrusters

By T.K. Randall
December 2, 2017 · Comment icon 24 comments



Voyager 1 is the only spacecraft flying in interstellar space. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA has activated the iconic interstellar probe's backup thrusters for the first time in 37 years.
Launched in 1977, both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 have traveled further from the Earth than any other man-made object in history and remain operational despite 40 years of traveling through space.

Now in a renewed effort to keep Voyager 1 running for a few more years, NASA has fired up its backup thrusters for the first time since the probe flew past Saturn all the way back in 1980.

The spacecraft still uses the Deep Space Network to communicate with Earth and to receive instructions, meaning that its antenna needs to be regularly adjusted to maintain contact.
Unfortunately though, Voyager's attitude control thrusters have been wearing down over the last few years and no longer function effectively, making it difficult to point the antenna towards Earth.

The decision to use the backup thrusters instead could extend the mission by another 2 to 3 years.

"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," said JPL's Chris Jones.

Source: The Verge | Comments (24)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #15 Posted by Derek Willis 5 years ago
Korolev was ordered by Khrushchev to deliver a "reliable large missile as quickly as possible". So he opted not to be too adventurous. He clustered his smaller missile to form the ICBM. And he stuck to using vernier motors rather than gimballed main motors, and gas generators to drive the pumps. Those decisions were what gave the Soviets the lead in the "space race" from 1957 to 1968. The US opted for more sophisticated designs and paid the price in terms of delays. As is well known, it was von Braun's "crude" Redstone that saved face in the US by launching their first satellite. Of course, on... [More]
Comment icon #16 Posted by Derek Willis 5 years ago
Talking of the moon, I am looking at the "super moon" right now. As an aside, I once read that in terms of how much it cost to get it back to Earth during the Apollo missions, moon rock is more valuable than diamonds. So even if it is not a great deal of use it has high value due to its scarcity here on Earth. But I wonder if the Space Treaty prevents companies bringing moon rock back to sell? 
Comment icon #17 Posted by bmk1245 5 years ago
Given the level of sophistication, you could say that. When you have electric motor and mechanical timer (for example, Riga-8 washing machine), its very hard to mess things up.
Comment icon #18 Posted by Trelane 5 years ago
Ah yes, the eager little computer. I recall how much it wanted to meet with its creator. Hopefully, Captain Decker is ready for his cue. Not as bothersome as that awful Kirk but motivated nonetheless.
Comment icon #19 Posted by geraldnewfie 5 years ago
all those years going through space and communicating and apple cant even make a phone without breaking first drop on the floor :P, nasa should make cell phones, they will never break !
Comment icon #20 Posted by cyclopes500 5 years ago
The Chinese are repeatedly building islands in the Pacific and claiming the territory. I'm wondering if they'll do the same in the craters on the moon's poles. Water was detected in some that don't get full sunlight and I was picturing them jumping from one to the next. Also in the lunar soil is Helium 3 and that is a fusion reactor fuel. As for anything else. Well they'll be the boots on the ground not us so who knows what they'll find. An alien ship or base perhaps. One buried and protected from the elements from space. Not only will they be there they'll have their hands on the technology. ... [More]
Comment icon #21 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy 5 years ago
The reason they chose this illfated design is long and convoluted, but if people are intersted they can find more here:  http://www.astronautix.com/n/n1.html  On the other hand the rocket engine that was developed for the N-1 were of an extremely advanced design that is still used today. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NK-33
Comment icon #22 Posted by Derek Willis 5 years ago
Your mention of the NK-15 engine used in the N-1 rocket is an example of the irony of the Soviet space program. This engine was 25% more efficient than the F-1 engines used in the first stage of the Saturn V which sent US astronauts to the moon. However, the NK-15 produced only 25% of the thrust of the F-1. The Soviets were hindered by political interference and rivalry among the factions within their space industry. Consequently, after the mid-1960s they spent vast sums of money for little gain. 
Comment icon #23 Posted by Derek Willis 5 years ago
By a strange coincidence I would say the cheese which looks most like the surface of the moon is Danish Blue.
Comment icon #24 Posted by paperdyer 5 years ago
All I can say is Go V'ger Go!


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