NASA to space nerds: you may now drive this space probe

ISEE-3, artist's rendition.

ISEE-3, artist's rendition.

NASA is giving a group of citizen scientists permission to take over ISEE-3, a 36-year-old decommissioned robotic space probe that will fly by the Earth in August.


The agency has signed a Non-Reimbursable Space Act Agreement (NRSAA) with Skycorp, Inc., in Los Gatos, California, allowing the company to attempt to contact, and possibly command and control, NASA’s International Sun-Earth Explorer-3 (ISEE-3) spacecraft as part of the company’s ISEE-3 Reboot Project. This is the first time NASA has worked such an agreement for use of a spacecraft the agency is no longer using or ever planned to use again.

The NRSAA details the technical, safety, legal and proprietary issues that will be addressed before any attempts are made to communicate with or control the 1970’s-era spacecraft as it nears the Earth in August.

"The intrepid ISEE-3 spacecraft was sent away from its primary mission to study the physics of the solar wind extending its mission of discovery to study two comets." said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington. "We have a chance to engage a new generation of citizen scientists through this creative effort to recapture the ISEE-3 spacecraft as it zips by the Earth this summer."

More in this Reuters article.

The space nerd coalition is raising funds to pull it off, and you can contribute here: "ISEE-3 Reboot Project by Space College, Skycorp, and SpaceRef."

Project lead Keith Cowing says, "We have passed our initial $125,000 goal - and our $150,000 'stretch' goal. First Contact with ISEE-3 is imminent."


Image: "NASA's International Sun-Earth Explorer was undergoing testing and evaluation inside Goddard's dynamic test chamber when this photo was taken. Working inside a dynamic test chamber, Goddard engineers wear protective "clean room" clothing to prevent microscopic dust particles from damaging the sophisticated instrumentation. NASA launched the 16-sided polyhedron, which weighed 1,032 lbs. (469 kg.), from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on August 12, 1978."