Enlarge / The Voyager team is able to use a set of four backup thrusters, dormant since 1980.
They are located on the back side of the spacecraft in this orientation. (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
At present, the Voyager spacecraft is 21 billion kilometers from Earth, or about 141 times the distance between the Earth and Sun.
It has, in fact, moved beyond our Solar System into interstellar space. However, we can still communicate with Voyager across that distance.
This week, the scientists and engineers on the Voyager team did something very special.
They commanded the spacecraft to fire a set of four trajectory thrusters for the first time in 37 years to determine their ability to orient the spacecraft using 10-millisecond pulses.
After sending the commands on Tuesday, it took 19 hours and 35 minutes for the signal to reach Voyager.
Then, the Earth-bound spacecraft team had to wait another 19 hours and 35 minutes to see if the spacecraft responded. It did.
After nearly four decades of dormancy, the Aerojet Rocketdyne manufactured thrusters fired perfectly.
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