The 36 year old NASA spacecraft, ISEE 3 which was abandoned by NASA has got a new lease of life, thanks to a team of volunteers who have decided to take the satellite out of its hibernation. The ISEE 3 or the International Sun-Earth Explorer 3 is an old war horse which was launched by NASA in 1978 and after an eventful service spanning more than two decades; it was finally switched off and abandoned in 1997 by NASA. Thanks to a group of dedicated group of private citizens, the old bird is now ready to do some work. It will not be its usual self since it is very low on pressurized nitrogen which would have allowed the group to park the satellite in a stable location nick named L1 between the Sun and the Earth.
Keith Cowing, co-leader of the ISEE-3 Reboot Project, told Space.com said, “We’re disappointed we couldn’t put it in the L-1 orbit, but we had a lot of scientists saying we’re more interested in interplanetary space,”
However the ISEE 3 satellite is not dead and five of the 13 instruments on board are still working even after more than 3 decades in existence. The old war horse could still be of some use for example it can be used as a platform to listen to gamma-ray bursts, which are the brightest explosions in the universe and often take place over just a few minutes. The satellite could serve as one more point to study gamma ray bursts in the Universe.
Obtaining data from the satellite will be a tricky business and will depend upon number of radio antennas set up by private citizens on Earth listening to the signal from ISEE-3. The coverage is good in US and Europe but is patch in the rest of the globe. The data obtained from ISEE 3 will be open source and is the first truly such global citizen radio science project.