While we struggle for mobile reception in a countryside, Nasa just managed to contact a spacecraft 13 billion miles away.
Nasa was worried Earth would lose contact with Voyager 1 as its altitude control thrusters, which rotate so it can communicate with Earth, have been wearing down.
The Voyager team eventually agreed on an “unusual solution”, according to a statement: firing up a set of four backup thrusters that hadn’t been used since 1980.
Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said in the statement:
With these thrusters that are still functional after 37 years without use, we will be able to extend the life of the Voyager 1 spacecraft by two to three years
The team fired up the thrusters on November 28, but they had to wait until the next day for confirmation that it had worked as the craft was so far away.
Todd Barber from JPL said in the statement:
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.
Voyager 1 is the only man-made object in interstellar space – the environment between the stars – whilst its sister spacecraft Voyager 2 is on its way there.
Both hold a Golden Record of Earth sounds, pictures and messages.
Since both spacecraft could last billions of years, the time capsules they carry could one day be the only surviving trace of human civilisation.