NASA nails test on Voyager spacecraft, 13 billion miles away

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- NASA has nailed an engine test on a spacecraft 13 billion miles away.

Last week, ground controllers sent commands to fire backup thrusters on Voyager 1, our most distant spacecraft. The thrusters had been idle for 37 years, since Voyager 1 flew past Saturn.

To NASA's delight, the four dormant thrusters came alive.

Engineers wanted to see if these alternate thrusters could point Voyager 1's antenna toward Earth, a job normally handled by a different set that's now degrading. The thrusters will take over pointing operations next month.

Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 is the only spacecraft traveling through interstellar space, the region beyond our solar system. Voyager 2 is close on its heels. The thruster test worked so well that NASA expects to try it on Voyager 2.