The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) successfully increased the lifespan of its Voyager 1 mission by few years by firing thrusters that were unused from the past 37 years. The decision came after the thrusters orienting spacecraft and keeping antenna in the right direction began to break down after being 40 years in the space.
NASA engineers decided to fire backup thrusters, which had been idle for past 37 years. Then, they needed to wait for 19 hours and 35 minutes to receive a signal from Voyager 1 orbiting at the edge of the solar system. Firing the long shot worked for them, and plan to fire up the backup thrusters by 2020.
The Voyager team studied the old records and studied the original software before testing. Propulsion engineer, Todd Barber, said that the excitement was growing as they were reaching every milestone in the test.
“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 Barber, in a statement.
After switching on the backup thrusters, Voyager 1 would be able to send messages a little longer. It is estimated that it will send the messages until 2025.
Voyager 1 was launched in 1977. It is the only spacecraft orbiting in the interstellar space, which has managed to reach beyond the solar system.
As the backup thrusters test worked for Voyager 1, NASA is planning to test it for Voyager 2 in future.