Just Too Cool! Voyager fires its thrusters for the first time in 37 years.

Recently I re-watched the movie The Martian, which is also a novel.  [US HERE – UK HERE  I understand that the author has a new book out.] I find it inspiring.

We  encounter challenges.  We work the problems.  We face our greatest challenge, our salvation, alone.

We can get advice from others, but we really are alone in working out our salvation with fear and trembling, close to but distant from others. The character in the movie faces a lot of challenges alone.

We all, on the other hand, for our spiritual lives have the help of angels and saints and of actual graces!

In a sense, in this life, we are all in this together and we have to help each other out, for the love of God and neighbor.  But when it comes down to responsibility for our actions, when it comes to our Judgment… we face those things by ourselves and stand alone before the Just Judge.

Speaking of being alone, I spotted this nifty story at Space.com.  “The Martian”, in the movie and book, uses old technology (a couple of different kinds) to overcome his challenges.  So, too, those who handle Voyager.

Voyager 1 Just Fired Up its Backup Thrusters for the 1st Time in 37 Years

NASA’s far-flung Voyager 1 spacecraft has taken its backup thrusters out of mothballs.

Voyager 1 hadn’t used its four “trajectory correction maneuver” (TCM) thrusters since November 1980, during the spacecraft’s last planetary flyby — an epic encounter with Saturn. But mission team members fired them up again Tuesday (Nov. 28), to see whether the TCM thrusters were still ready for primetime.

The little engines passed the test with flying colors, NASA officials said.

“The Voyager team got more excited each time with each milestone in the thruster test,” Todd Barber, a propulsion engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. “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.”


“The Voyager flight team dug up decades-old data and examined the software that was coded in an outdated assembler language, to make sure we could safely test the thrusters,” Chris Jones, chief engineer at JPL, said in the same statement.



How about an analogy.

The hotshots who handle Voyager dug up stuff from way back in the probes past and used it creatively to give new live to the spacecraft.

Even as we see now that the Catholic Church is, demographically dying in these wealthy USA, and she is being shoved farther and farther to the periphery, some bishops and priests are injecting new life into their flocks through the rediscovery of tradition.

We can benefit a great deal from the past.  We must be careful not to rush to scrap things that some claim are obsolete.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. jschicago says:

    Interesting news and fascinating comparison, Father. The article points out they, “dug up decades-old data and examined the software that was coded in an outdated assembler language,” which leads to another comparison, where the Church needs to know Latin well to draw on the tradition, just like the programmers needed to know how to read the older programming language to fire the thrusters.

  2. PostCatholic says:

    Much like Voyager, my VCR is in fact obsolete. It still works, but it’s obsolete. (I don’t think you want me to extrapolate further.)

  3. PTK_70 says:

    If my experience in Phoenix is any indication, the “rediscovery of tradition” (ie, Traditional Roman Masses with Spanish homilies) has tremendous potential to unleash spiritual fecundities from the Mexican/Hispanic community in the US. This community is in desperate need of being reconnected with its Catholic cultural roots IMHO.

    As for the Martian, for all his problem-solving, there was no way Matt Damon was getting off Mars and back to Earth on his own.

    “Faith is a personal” but “not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone….” (CCC 166). To this I would also add that no one baptizes himself. Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.

  4. Robert of Rome says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z. I found this entire post inspirational. Good point, too, about going to Confession. Thanks for reminding us all.

  5. JonPatrick says:

    jschicago brings up an interesting analogy. In the computer world today we almost exclusively use high level languages which get translated by a compiler to the machine language that the processor actually executes. This is analogous to how in the modern Church we almost exclusively use the vernacular which is a translation of the original Latin. The old assembly languages were a one-for-one mapping of instructions to the underlying machine instructions and so truly reflect what the processor is actually doing. In the same way Latin expresses most accurately what was passed down to us and we always lose something in a translation.

  6. Cool! And the fuel still worked? Or is it some other propellant method?
    Yea, Assembler?!? Punch cards too?
    Great analogy to Latin and the basics and the most-direct-is-the-most-reliable.
    If we are to believe prophecies and Scripture, it won’t be long ’til we are back to “Assembler” in our own lives – using mules and growing food ourselves again, without the fake layers of technology and electricity.

  7. Father Athanasius (Paul) Lemmen says:

    I noticed a theme in your posts this Advent (as in past years) … your recurring declaration “Go to confession” … that gentle reminder that Advent is a penitential season. In Orthodoxy, it is the same (are our Churches not sisters?) and a frequent call in my writings is “Go to confession” and the daily post “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, the sinner and unworthy Priest”. Like any good and faithful Priest, I will hear a sacramental confession anytime, anywhere.
    Thank you my brother, for once again allowing me to drop in an poat an occasional comment. Keep up the good work!

  8. Filipino Catholic says:

    It is objected: “Much like Voyager, my VCR is in fact obsolete. It still works, but it’s obsolete. (I don’t think you want me to extrapolate further.)”

    Respondeo: What is obsolete does not necessarily remain so. God is in the business of reusing and recycling — “Behold, I make all things new.” Shall the members of the Mystical Body not imitate the Head?

  9. un-ionized says:

    Tina in Ashburn, the thrusters use hydrazine, chosen for many reasons and it has a low freezing point.

  10. Semper Gumby says:

    This is great news, as there is no way that those engines are still under warranty.

    And wouldn’t the fine folks at NASA spill their coffee if Voyager replied to their startup command like this:


    We probably would all like to see Michael O’Brien write another sci-fi book. Maybe NASA could be convinced to send Voyager on a little look-see to Alpha Centauri.

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