Citizen Scientists Hope to Wake Up Old Satellite

ISEE-3 travels by Earth this summer for first time in 30 years

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 16, 2014 1:28 PM CDT

(Newser) – A long-dormant satellite is heading back toward Earth this summer after 31 years, and some "citizen scientists" want to try to wake it up and put it back to work, reports Motherboard. Cash-strapped NASA hasn't shown much interest in investing money in the idea, hence the move toward crowdfunding to get the job done. The plan revolves around a satellite launched by NASA in 1978 called the International Sun-Earth Explorer, or ISEE-3. It was supposed to permanently hang out in the orbit between the sun and Earth to monitor solar wind, but another team at NASA sort of hijacked the satellite five years later to go comet-hunting.

While ISEE-3 did great in its new duty, it had to leave its old orbit to do so and has been looping around the sun ever since. But the spacecraft makes a swing by Earth in August, raising the opportunity for its reboot—assuming all the technical logistics can be addressed. "In order to interact with the spacecraft we will need to locate the original commands and then develop a software recreation of the original hardware that was used to communicate with the spacecraft," explains that crowdfunding plea at Rockethub. A blog post at Planetary.org lays out the difficulties. Still, it's worth a shot, concludes Ben Richmond at Motherboard. "Given NASA's success rate at using spacecraft beyond their mission—the Voyagers, Kepler, etc— why not try to wake up the ISEE-3 and see what it's got left?"

File image of the International Sun-Earth Explorer 3, or ISEE-3.
File image of the International Sun-Earth Explorer 3, or ISEE-3.   (NASA)
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