On Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, Voyager engineers fired up the four TCM thrusters for the first time in 37 years and tested their ability to orient the spacecraft using 10-millisecond pulses. The team waited eagerly as the test results traveled through space, taking 19 hours and 35 minutes to reach an antenna in Goldstone, California, that is part of NASA’s Deep Space Network.
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As we move further and further from our planet and begin exploring space, we need to know that we can survive and function during these long trips in zero-g. Astronauts would need to live outside Earth’s gravity for three years on a trip to Mars — three to six months each way, plus two years waiting for the planets to align favorably once again. Mars has some gravity, but it’s approximately 1/3 that of the Earth’s. We need to understand how living in that kind of environment for an extended period of time will affect astronauts, and how they can mitigate any effects on their bodies and neural function.
Are we really an interstellar species? Can we even survive a Mars trip, let alone staying there a while longer?
TC4 came so close to Earth this time around that it was nearly within the orbit of many of our satellites, and just a fraction of the distance between Earth and the Moon. Based on current models forecasting its path, the rock will perform another near-miss in 2050, and we should be safe for that event, but its return in 2079 is giving scientists a reason to worry.