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36 years on, zombie ship to come home from space
36 years on, zombie ship to come home from space

36 years on, zombie ship to come home from space

Back in May, a group of engineers successfully managed to reestablish contact with NASA’s Vintage ISEE-3 Spacecraft satellite, overcoming numerous obstacles in the process.

Now, the engineers responsible for taking control of ISEE-3 are hoping to bring the zombie satellite back home. If all goes as planned, engines will be firing up in a couple of weeks.

“We call ourselves techno-archaeologists,” said Dennis Wingo, an engineer and entrepreneur who has a track record of extracting miracles from space antiques that NASA has given up on.

Wingo’s company, Skycorp, has its offices in a McDonald’s that NASA converted into a research campus for small technology companies, academia and nonprofits.

Wingo took on the project as if it were a stray puppy.

“No one else was going to do it,” he said, “and it seemed like the right thing to do.”

The race to revive the craft, ISEE-3, began in earnest in April. At the end of May, using the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope in Puerto Rico, the team succeeded in talking to the spacecraft.

Despite the obstacles, progress has been steady.

NASA launched ISEE-3 in 1978. Jimmy Carter was president, the Commodores topped the music charts with “Three Times a Lady,” and the No. 1 movie was “Grease.”

Since being retired in 1997, the craft has been looping around the sun on a 355-day orbit. ISEE-3 will catch up to and pass Earth in two months.

That is exactly what Robert W. Farquhar, the craft’s flight director, intended.

If everything goes as hoped, ISEE-3 will end up in its original location to observe solar wind.

Now 81, Farquhar is half-retired, but collaborating with the reboot effort, and he is still thinking ahead. He wants to send ISEE-3 out to visit yet another comet. Wingo protests that it would cost too much money.

“We’ll go to the comet,” Farquhar said. “Trust me.”

Agencies/Canadajournal




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