Voyager 1 is the first man-made object to leave the solar system. 37 years after it was launched, NASA’s engineers fired the spacecraft’s backup thrusters. The primary thrusters have been getting weaker over the last few years.
Voyager’s thrusters were fired for a few milliseconds from a distance of 13 billion miles in order to reposition the spacecraft so that the antennae would point towards earth.
Nobody at NASA knew if firing the thrusters would work after decades of inactivity. After 19 hours, the time which it took for the signal to get back to earth, it was confirmed that the thrusters had actually been fired. Voyager 1 will now be able to operate and send data back to earth for another 2 to 3 years.
As Voyager 1 software dates back to the 1970s, scientists had to examine the software code to make sure the engines worked correctly.
Voyager 1 and its twin Voyager 2 were launched in 1977 to carry out a grand tour of the solar system. They passed Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. After that, the spacecraft kept on flying and passed the boundaries of the solar system. In the past decades, the two spacecraft made great discoveries, including active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io and a methane atmosphere on Saturn’s moon Titan.
Although Voyager 2’s thrusters are in a better condition than it’s sister craft NASA also plans to fire them in the near future.
- although = while
- backup = something that you use to replace something that doesn’t work
- billion = a thousand million
- boundary = where something ends
- condition = shape
- confirm = know for sure that something has worked
- correctly = in the right way
- data = information
- dates back = here: is from a certain time in the past
- decade = ten years
- discovery = to find something for the first time
- distance = the amount of space between two objects
- engine = machine that makes something travel
- engineer = someone whose job it is to design and build machines, rockets, bridges etc..
- examine = look at something very closely
- fire = here: to make something work
- grand tour = here: a journey that takes you far away to all the planets of our solar system
- inactivity = here : not in operation
- launch = start into space
- man-made = made by a person, not nature
- methane = gas that you can not see or smell, but which is burned to give heat
- near future = sometime soon
- operate = work the way it should
- primary = most important, main
- reposition = here: to move it into a new position
- scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
- solar system = our sun and the planets that go around it
- spacecraft = object that can travel in space
- thruster = small engine in a spacecraft that controls how it flies by pushing out small amounts of gas
- twin = here: built in the same way