Non-Profit Takes Over an Old NASA Spacecraft



Today, space exploration is an adventure where we can all participate. Consider this neat project, which recovered an old NASA spacecraft for private use. “An ambitious project to resuscitate an abandoned spacecraft finally met with success Thursday as amateur astro-engineers took control of the International Sun-Earth Explorer.” NBC News

The space craft, called ISEE-3, originally operated in a halo orbit about the L1 SunEarth Lagrangian point. It was the first spacecraft placed at this “libration point”, proving that such a suspension between gravitational fields was possible. Wikipedia

ISEE-3 originally studied space weather, was repurposed and repositioned to pass through a comet’s tail, and then returned to studying the sun and cosmic rays. NASA shut it down shortly before the turn of the 21st century and donated it to the Smithsonian Museum. I wonder if it was the only museum display housed in space?

Despite its antiquated 1970s technology, this craft can still do science, and 12 of its 13 instruments to measure plasmas, energetic particles, waves, and fields still function. Now, a crowd-funded project to reboot the spacecraft has paid off. On a shoestring budget of $150,000 (there must be a huge amount of volunteer effort on this project), Space College Foundation has reestablished control. If the craft can be induced to modify its orbit in the next couple weeks, ISEE-3 will resume its study of solar weather. It may even chase another comet someday.

Illustration from public domain


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