Sunday, December 3, 2017

Voyager 1 fires thrusters silent since Jimmy Carter was President

Copyright NASA

November 4th, 1980. Ronald Reagan defeats incumbent Jimmy Carter to become the 40th President of the United States

November 8th, 1980. Voyager 1 fires its trajectory correction maneuver thrusters (a secondary system called TCM's for short) to tweak its Saturn pass-by after launching on September 5, 1977.

Copyright NASA
November 28th, 2017. NASA attempts to fire up the TCM's after 37 years of silence only to learn THEY WORK! After BILLIONS of miles in space exposed to dust and radiation and solar winds THEY WORKED! I'm lucky if my riding lawn mower starts on the first try after a single winter. And that's after a three-hour prep.

Here's some of NASA's press release. Click >>  Voyager  << for the full piece.

"On Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, Voyager engineers fired up the four TCM thrusters for the first time in 37 years and tested their ability to orient the spacecraft using 10-millisecond pulses. The team waited eagerly as the test results traveled through space, taking 19 hours and 35 minutes to reach an antenna in Goldstone, California, that is part of NASA's Deep Space Network.

Lo and behold, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, they learned the TCM thrusters worked perfectly -- and just as well as the attitude control thrusters.

"The Voyager team got more excited each time with each milestone in the thruster 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, a JPL propulsion engineer."

NASA is trying to extend the work life Voyager 1 by a few more years. Adjusting the orientation of the probe -via the thrusters- will bring its antenna dish back into proper alignment with Earth to improve the probe's data stream. FROM 13 BILLION MILES AWAY. I LOVES ME THE CAPS LOCK KEY! For the full mission history visit NASA's Voyager 1 Mission Page.

Keep this in mind, this probe and its sister Voyager 2 were launched in September 1977 using late 60's/early 1970's tech. The people who made these had 8-track players in their cars, wore bell bottoms, and still managed to hit multiple targets over 746 million miles away (1.2 billion km) away. For my younger readers, let me put September 1977 into historical/pop culture perspective.

By September:

* Star Wars is six months old.* Apple as a corporate entity is ten months old.
* Jimmy Carter has been President for ten months.
* Tandy's TRS-80 home computer hits the market that same month.

That same year:

* January's television viewers tuned into a new mini-series on ABC called Roots.
* March saw humans finally realizing Uranus has rings.
* April's music scene sported the debut album of a group called The Clash.
* May saw the opening of both Chuck E. Cheese and Space Mountain.
* July saw a twenty-five-hour long power outage in New York City. That did not end well.
* August saw the Space Shuttle Enterprise make its test flight, SETI picks up the "Wow!" signal, and Elvis dies, er, fakes his own death.
* September saw the drafting of the Interpol copyright warning we see at the beginning of movies.
* October sees the effective wiping out of smallpox.
* December saw the first children's cable channel called The Pinwheel Network. You know it today as Nickelodeon.

The Walkman and Pac-Man? About two-years down the road in the future. You get the idea.

Let's take a little tour thanks to the Voyager, and by extension all the men and women who made it possible.

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