NASA Received New Signals From A Spacecraft Located Almost 13 Billion Miles Away In The Universe
You don’t expect an automobile that has been sitting in a garage for decades to start the first time you turn the key and push the pedal. After 37 years, NASA was able to reactivate a system of thrusters aboard the ship, which will assist Nasa in orienting the ship’s antennae to Earth so that NASA can interact with it once more.
Voyager 1 is NASA and JPL’s first spacecraft (more akin to a large satellite) to leave our solar system, traveling through interstellar space at a speed of over 35,000 miles per hour and presently more than 13 billion miles from Earth. The main thrusters and backup or secondary thrusters, sometimes known as TCM thrusters, are found on Voyager 1. The main thrusters have failed in the 40 years after the ship flew through space, and NASA has lost touch with the ship since it was unable to direct the ship with the communications antenna to Earth. Until now, the backup thrusters have been sleeping.
To re-orient the ship to the Earth, Nasa and JPL experts are considering putting back the backup (back-up) engines. “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 NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
NASA and JPL have put up a team of engineers named The Voyager Team to fix this challenge. Engineers Chris Jones, Robert Shotwell, Carl Guernsey, and Todd Barber formed the team, which studied the possibilities and how the ship would behave in various circumstances before devising an unorthodox approach to fire the backup thrusters.
“To properly test the thrusters, the Voyager flight crew dredged out decades-old data and evaluated software that was programmed in an antiquated assembly language,” said Jones, JPL’s chief engineer. The crew waited 19 hours and 35 minutes for signals from Voyager 1 to reach the Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, California. When the crew got the signals and realized that everything went according to plan, they reveled in the unexpected success for which they had worked so hard. This approach will also be used on Voyager 2 by JPL engineers.