Holding on to its promise of saving the world, NASA has a lot to prove to the public. Now may be a good time to breathe a sigh of relief, as the space agency successfully communicated with a faraway spacecraft. 13 billion miles away, to be exact.
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.
Voyager 1 then pinged a signal back to the Jet Propulsion Lab, received after a 19-hour wait. At 40-years-old, the senior spacecraft is the only one floating outside of our own solar system. A team at NASA conducted a thorough study of its original software, which (obviously) remained mostly intact.
“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,” he said in a statement.
If further testing proves successful, the decrepit Voyager 1 may see extra years of potential hovering.
People are always eager to learn more about space. This astronomy student even photographed it, using only a telescope and Game Boy. While it’s impressive, NASA never fails to blow us out of the water. In its final voyage, satellite Cassini discovered a possibility of life on Saturn’s moon Titan.
Using data from Cassini, the first study… documents so-called carbon chain anions—negatively charged carbon molecules that are thought to serve as a step to the formation of more complex organic molecules that can develop life.
These molecules don’t normally appear in other space environments, meaning this is big news. Also found present on Titan was vinyl cyanide, a molecule that can build cell membranes.
This molecule, if it fell into the pools of liquid hydrocarbons on Titan’s surface, could theoretically serve a role similar to that of phospholipids on Earth, which comprise the soft, but durable membranes surrounding all of our cells and their precious genetic material.
The material is toxic on Earth but would develop perfectly on Titan — just differently. Actual life on Saturn has not yet seen the light of day, but this major discovery is crucial, nonetheless. (Or should I say out of this world?)