Space Buffs Awaken Old NASA Probe

Group sends commands to 36-year-old spacecraft
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 30, 2014 4:54 AM CDT
Space Buffs Awaken Old NASA Probe
The International Sun-Earth Explorer-3 has been unused since 1997.   (NASA)

A group of space enthusiasts has managed to gain control of an abandoned NASA spacecraft that has been dormant since the '90s. The International Sun-Earth Explorer, or ISEE-3, was launched in 1978 to study solar wind and, since NASA showed little interest in waking it up, the group hatched a crowdfunded plan to take control of it as it neared Earth this year, reports NPR. The citizen scientists figured out how to communicate with the decades-old spacecraft and managed to make first contact yesterday.

"We knew we could do this—it’s a vindication," the co-director of the reboot project tells Science. "It's sort of like reaching back in time to grab something that otherwise would have been lost." The team plans to assess the health of the spacecraft and its scientific instruments before starting a burn with its remaining fuel and shifting it into a new orbit, where it can carry out more research. This isn't the first time the ISEE-3 has been commandeered—in 1983, NASA scientist Robert Farquhar "hijacked" the spacecraft and sent it on a mission to rendezvous with a comet. (More NASA stories.)

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