NASA Has a New Plan to Save Its Zombie Spaceship

A long-lost spaceship may still have some life left in it — if a California company can figure out how to talk to it.

National Journal
Alex Brown
May 21, 2014, 2:15 p.m.

NASA has a plan to save a satel­lite long giv­en up for dead: Let the private sec­tor take care of it.

The agency’s ground­break­ing ISEE-3 satel­lite is near­ing Earth for the first time in 30 years, and while its in­stru­ments still ap­pear to work, the com­mu­nic­a­tions equip­ment used to con­trol it was scrapped years ago. The only reas­on we know it’s still work­ing is that someone for­got to send the “off” sig­nal when it was sched­uled to shut down.

ISEE-3’s sum­mer pass-by of Earth could provide the grav­ity needed to send it on an­oth­er mis­sion — oth­er­wise it will just keep sail­ing around the sun. But NASA says it can’t af­ford the re­sources needed to re-cre­ate the com­mu­nic­a­tions equip­ment it would need for such a man­euver.

Enter Sky­corp.

The Cali­for­nia com­pany lob­bied NASA to let it take a crack at talk­ing to ISEE-3. On Wed­nes­day, NASA an­nounced it will give Sky­corp a chance. The agency an­nounced it “has shared tech­nic­al data with these cit­izen sci­ent­ists to help them com­mu­nic­ate with and re­turn data from ISEE-3.”

Sky­corp be­lieves its ra­dio tele­scope is cap­able of com­mu­nic­at­ing with the satel­lite, and it wants the pub­lic’s help in do­ing a job for which NASA lacks the fund­ing. Crowd­sourcing, the com­pany says, will en­able it to com­mu­nic­ate with and con­trol ISEE-3, while in­ter­pret­ing the valu­able data it sends back.

ISEE-3 was launched in 1978, and it pi­on­eered the tech­nique of us­ing a Lag­rangi­an point (a place in Earth’s or­bit where grav­it­a­tion­al pull is nearly bal­anced) to eas­ily re­dir­ect it­self. It also made flybys of a pair of comets, and has been slowly catch­ing up to Earth in a sol­ar or­bit for the past three dec­ades.

NASA hasn’t had the trans­mit­ters to give it com­mands since 1999, but a 2008 check on its trans­mis­sions — which a sci­ent­ist for­got to shut down years earli­er — re­vealed that most of its in­stru­ments are still in good con­di­tion.

For more on the story of ISEE-3’s jour­neys, read here.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4861) }}

What We're Following See More »
LEGACY PLAY
Sanders and Clinton Spar Over … President Obama
5 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama became a surprise topic of contention toward the end of the Democratic debate, as Hillary Clinton reminded viewers that Sanders had challenged the progressive bona fides of President Obama in 2011 and suggested that someone might challenge him from the left. “The kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans, I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama,” she said. “Madame Secretary, that is a low blow,” replied Sanders, before getting in another dig during his closing statement: “One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate.”

THE 1%
Sanders’s Appeals to Minorities Still Filtered Through Wall Street Talk
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

It’s all about the 1% and Wall Street versus everyone else for Bernie Sanders—even when he’s talking about race relations. Like Hillary Clinton, he needs to appeal to African-American and Hispanic voters in coming states, but he insists on doing so through his lens of class warfare. When he got a question from the moderators about the plight of black America, he noted that during the great recession, African Americans “lost half their wealth,” and “instead of tax breaks for billionaires,” a Sanders presidency would deliver jobs for kids. On the very next question, he downplayed the role of race in inequality, saying, “It’s a racial issue, but it’s also a general economic issue.”

DIRECT APPEAL TO MINORITIES, WOMEN
Clinton Already Pivoting Her Messaging
7 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

It’s been said in just about every news story since New Hampshire: the primaries are headed to states where Hillary Clinton will do well among minority voters. Leaving nothing to chance, she underscored that point in her opening statement in the Milwaukee debate tonight, saying more needs to be done to help “African Americans who face discrimination in the job market” and immigrant families. She also made an explicit reference to “equal pay for women’s work.” Those boxes she’s checking are no coincidence: if she wins women, blacks and Hispanics, she wins the nomination.

THE QUESTION
How Many Jobs Would Be Lost Under Bernie Sanders’s Single-Payer System?
15 hours ago
THE ANSWER

More than 11 million, according to Manhattan Institute fellow Yevgeniy Feyman, writing in RealClearPolicy.

Source:
WEEKEND DATA DUMP
State to Release 550 More Clinton Emails on Saturday
15 hours ago
THE LATEST

Under pressure from a judge, the State Department will release about 550 of Hillary Clinton’s emails—“roughly 14 percent of the 3,700 remaining Clinton emails—on Saturday, in the middle of the Presidents Day holiday weekend.” All of the emails were supposed to have been released last month. Related: State subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation last year, which brings the total number of current Clinton investigations to four, says the Daily Caller.

Source:
×