The spacecraft has been traveling space for 40 years and, since 2012, has left our solar system, becoming the first and so far only man-made interstellar object.
The thrusters that the Voyager 1 has been using are called "attitude control thrusters" and the engineers at the space agency spotted that they had been degrading since the year 2014.
Fortunately, Voyager 1 seems to refuse to give up the ghost and its backup thrusters have been successfully fired up, even after being left unused for 37 years.
Voyager 1 has been hurtling through space since 1977, the same year that saw the first home computer hit the market. Voyager is now 13 billion miles from Earth, with transmissions taking 19 hours and 35 minutes each way.
Experts in NASA agreed on an unusual solution: Try giving the job of orientation to a set of thrusters that had been asleep for last 37 years.
Jupiter & moons Io, Europa, Ganymede & Callisto, as depicted by Voyager spacecraft. With that in mind, NASA chose to fire the older thrusters up and see if they could take over the attitude control adjustments.
The discovery that the TCM thrusters still work has been the cause for celebration for the Voyager project team. As they get old, the thrusters need more puffs to generate a similar amount of energy than before.
When there is no longer enough power to operate the heaters, the team will switch back to the attitude control thrusters. The operations will continue over the next month, and the whole process could extend the spacecraft's life by two to three years.
"The Voyager flight team dug up decades-old data and examined the software that was coded in an outdated assembler language, to make sure we could safely test the thrusters", said Jones, chief engineer at JPL. "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", Jones' colleague, Todd Barber, added. Now, NASA is planning to switch the TCM thrusters on again in January.
Voyager 1, launched in 1997 to investigate the solar system and beyond is traveling at a speed of 38,000 miles per hour (relative to the sun).