Skip to comments.NASA receives response from Voyager 1 spacecraft 13 billion miles away after 37 years of inactivity
Posted on 03/29/2018 5:54:55 PM PDT by Enchante
The thrusters aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft just did what we thought was impossible. After 37 years of inactivity, NASA just received response from spacecraft 13 billion miles away, NASA said in a statement on its website. Voyager 1 is NASAs farthest and fastest spacecraft. It was launched on September 5, 1977. Having operated for 40 years, 6 months and 14 days as of March 19, 2018, the spacecraft relies on small devices called thrusters to orient itself so it can communicate with Earth. These thrusters fire in tiny pulses, or puffs, lasting mere milliseconds, to subtly rotate the spacecraft so that its antenna points at our planet. Now, the Voyager team is able to use a set of four backup thrusters, dormant since 1980.
In a statement on its website, NASA said: The Voyager team assembled a group of propulsion experts at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, to study the problem. Chris Jones, Robert Shotwell, Carl Guernsey and Todd Barber analyzed options and predicted how the spacecraft would respond in different scenarios. They agreed on an unusual solution: Try giving the job of orientation to a set of thrusters that had been asleep for 37 years.
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 NASAs 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The Voyager flight team dug up decades-old data and examined the software that was coded in an outdated assembler language, to make sure we could safely test the thrusters, said Jones, chief engineer at JPL.
In a further testament to the robustness of Voyager 1, the Voyager team completed a successful test of the spacecrafts trajectory correction maneuver (TCM) thrusters on November 28, 2017. The last time these backup thrusters were fired up was in November 1980. Voyager project manager Suzanne Dodd anticipates that successful utilization of the TCM thrusters will extend the Voyager mission by an additional two to three years.
Voyager 1s extended mission is expected to continue until around 2025 when its radioisotope thermoelectric generators will no longer supply enough electric power to operate its scientific instruments.
After 37 years of silence.
How can we be sure it is not space aliens toying with our toy??? jk jk
Calling after 37 years?
Must want money.
They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.
I’m not sure what “safely test the thrusters” could mean in this context — if they didn’t succeed then we would never be hearing from the spacecraft again anyway, so how is there any risk to trying something?
It’s cold and lonely out here
I can’t say I’ve given a lot of thought to Voyager 1 since the ‘70s, but this was launched just as I entered college.... so this baby has been hurtling through space for my entire adult life. WOW. And now it calls home again! At last....
We better answer. We don’t want V’ger to return like in Star Trek 1.
>>software that was coded in an outdated assembler language
I guess to “tech startups” maybe
[Must want money.]
Calls home using the power plant my Dad’s team at GE made for the Voyagers! He showed me some incredible videos of a test train crashing into a concrete barrier to prove that the cask containing the plutonium wouldn’t crack and spew its deadly contents over the land if the rocket crashed on liftoff.
It is claiming she slept with Trump
I’m confused and it may be the article. It’s not that we haven’t communicated with Voyager 1 for 37 years, it’s that those particular retro nozzles haven’t been activated for 37 years?
Or am I reading the whole story wrong?
Probably needs money.
It’s not 37 years of silence, it’s just 37 years since those particular thrusters have been used. Which is still amazing. The craft has been in contact with earth all along. Which is even more amazing. I just started my freshman year in college when it was launched, and now I’m contemplating retirement in a few years.
The thrusters have been inactive for 37 years, it didn’t “stop communicating” 37 years ago.
1990-02-14 Final images of the Voyager program acquired by Voyager 1 to create the Solar System Family Portrait.
1998-02-17 Voyager 1 overtakes Pioneer 10 as the most distant spacecraft from the Sun, at 69.419 AU. Voyager 1 is moving away from the Sun at over 1 AU per year faster than Pioneer 10.
2004-12-17 Passed the termination shock at 94 AU and entered the heliosheath.
2007-02-02 Terminated plasma subsystem operations.
2007-04-11 Terminated plasma subsystem heater.
2008-01-16 Terminated planetary radio astronomy experiment operations.
2012-08-25 Crossed the heliopause at 121 AU and entered interstellar space.
2014-07-07 Further confirmation probe is in interstellar space.
2016-04-19 Terminated Ultraviolet Spectrometer operations.
2017-11-28 “Trajectory correction maneuver” (TCM) thrusters are tested in their first use since November 1980.
On February 14, 1990, Voyager 1 took the first ever “family portrait” of the Solar System as seen from outside, which includes the image of planet Earth known as Pale Blue Dot. Soon afterward its cameras were deactivated to conserve power and computer resources for other equipment. The camera software has been removed from the spacecraft, so it would now be complex to get them working again. Earth-side software and computers for reading the images are also no longer available.
They pinged with puffs.
OH, then the article is not well written, I would say. It gave me the impression there had been silence since 1980. I don’t follow a lot of NASA stuff or I would have known better, obviously. Anyway, very cool. Yes, I think the item jumped out at me because I was just starting college that month. An exciting time, ha ha.....
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