May 29, 2014 11:08 PM Subscribe
Back in February (mefi)
posted by dendrochronologizer (20 comments total)
23 users marked this as a favorite
, things looked grim for the ISEE-3/ICE
probe. A lot can change in 3 1/2 months.
Originally launched in 1978 to study the Earth's magnetic field and the solar wind, the International Sun/Earth Explorer 3 was renamed in 1982 (to the International Cometary Explorer) and dispatched to rendezvous with two comets
in 1985 and '86. After completing that mission, the probe orbited along the same trajectory as the Earth (roughly speaking), but out of phase with it. The two orbits would next align in mid-2014.
The probe's third mission (gathering data on coronal mass ejections
) ended in 1997, and the antennas needed to contact it were decommissioned in 1999. NASA determined it would be infeasible to reestablish contact this year, despite the fact that the probe is believed to have up to 12 of its original 13 sensors in working order, and a sufficient supply of thruster fuel for orbital maneuvers. Not deterred, a group of enthusiasts set up a crowdfunding campaign
and raised $160k for an effort to contact the spacecraft. NASA signed an agreement
last week to allow that effort to proceed legally.
Using a custom-built transmitter installed at the Arecibo Observatory
in Puerto Rico, the team made contact with the probe, and as of about 12 hours ago it began transmitting telemetry data to three Earth-based receiving stations. Pending analysis of the probe's status, the team could next park it in a stable orbit between the Earth and the Sun (specifically the L1 point)
. You can follow the team's progress on their blog