NASA’s Sun-Earth Explorer 3 is back online thanks to the efforts of a private team’s crowdfunding campaign. Let the great age of re-purposing old satellites begin, and let’s hope we don’t get a “V’Ger“ on our hands in a couple centuries.
ISEE was retired in 1997 after it was launched into space in 1978. Its original purpose was to study how solar wind interacts with Earth’s magnetic field, but in 1983 it was repurposed to take a closer look at two comets. It has been inactive since 1987, but with a little financial help, a group of volunteers changed that.
The group, comprised of engineers, programmers and scientists, worked with NASA to turn on ISEE’s engines on July 2 . The crowdfunding campaign soared past its goal of $125,000 to help fire up the ISEE-3’s engines once again. According to the RocketHub campaign, the team intends for ISEE to “resume its original mission,” and if all goes well, perhaps even chase a few more comets. But ISEE’s mission is a bit more complicated. In order for the probe to be useful, its devices must work, not just turn on. In 1999, when last checked, 12 of 13 instruments were working. As of now, the team knows at least the magnetometer, an instrument that measures Earth’s magnetic field, still works.