Voyager 1 spacecraft was launched in 1977 and is the only spacecraft flying beyond our solar system. This spacecraft is still in communication with earth. That means scientists can send instructions and receive data from the Voyager 1.
Last time, Voyager 1’s thrusters were active when it was crossing Saturn in November 1980. These thrusters help the spacecraft to remain in accurate trajectory. The Voyager 1 spacecraft was also equipped with four backup thrusters back then. These thrusters are the “Trajectory Correction Maneuver” or TCM.
On December 1, NASA announced that they fired up four backup thrusters of the Voyager 1. According to engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the thrusters are working fine and it can extend mission’s life another two to three years. After sending the thrusting instructions, the engineers waited eagerly to see whether the plan was successful or not. The spacecraft sent back the data which reached in 19 hours and 35 minutes on the Earth.
The mission team planned to switch over to the TCM thrusters in January. After competing the trajectory movement, they will switch it back to attitude control thrusters, on which they were relying so far. NASA is planing to test this pattern on Voyager 1’s twin probe Voyager 2. According to mission team, the Voyager 2 probe is still flying in the boundaries of our solar system (Heliosheath – the outer most layer of solar system where solar winds can reach [JPL]).
The probe was in news last time when it crossed the solar system in 2013. This spacecraft is the only human made object which is flying outside our solar system.