NASA turns on Voyager 1's thruster engines for first time in 37 years

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(CNN) - The Voyager 1 spacecraft has fired-up its thruster engines for the first time in 37 years. The last time it did so was in 1980.

NASA made the decision to activate the disused thrusters because the thrusters they had been using to adjust the spacecraft's antenna weren't functioning well anymore.

The antenna has to be in the right spot in order for the craft to send the data it's collecting back to Earth. Voyager 1 is currently more than 13 billion miles away from Earth, so the commands took a while to be relayed.

It took 19 hours and 35 minutes for the command to fire its thrusters to reach Voyager 1, and another 19 hours and 35 minutes for NASA to hear back that the engines had worked.

NASA launched Voyager 1 way back in 1977. It reached interstellar space in 2012, making it the first object made by humans to leave our solar system.

"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," said Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, in a NASA news release. 

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