Voyager 1 fires up thrusters after 37 years


If you tried to start a car that’s been sitting in a garage for decades, you might not expect the engine to respond. But a set of thrusters aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft successfully fired up Wednesday after 37 years without use.

Voyager 1, NASA’s farthest and fastest spacecraft, is the only human-made object in interstellar space, the environment between the stars. The spacecraft, which has been flying for 40 years, 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.

This is incredible. Voyager 1 is 13 billion miles away, running on ancient computer code and JPL was able to use dormant thrusters to give it a nudge.

  • taistier8162


  • flydrive

    The spacecraft has been travelling for 40 years. It’s now 19 light hours away (or possibly 1/2 that, the article’s not clear). It’s absolutely incredible that the craft and its twin have lasted so long, been so amazing and worked so well, but even now, after half a lifetime, it’s 1/2000th the distance to the nearest star system, if it were even going in the right direction.

    Space is unimaginably vast.

  • Mo

    What do the thrusters use for propellant?