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April 25, 2014

Crowdfunding project aims to bring a forgotten space probe back to life

by John_A
image-199631.jpg

The International Sun/Earth Explorer 3 probe is slated to come home in August after 36 years in space, but a group of engineers wants to use it as a platform for citizen science before it does. Sadly, NASA doesn’t have the budget to reactivate a probe’s that been decommissioned since 1999 — so, the team has turned to crowdfunding to get the ball rolling. For those who’ve never heard of the ISEE-3 before, it was originally sent to space to study how the Earth’s magnetic field and solar winds interact. Thus, it has 13 different scientific instruments on board (for measuring plasma, magnetic fields, waves and particles) that students or just about anyone can use if the group manages to recapture it.

Good news is, the team is led by Dennis Wingo and Keith Cowing, who have some serious credentials under their belt. These long-time collaborators head the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, which digitizes analog data tapes from unmanned lunar orbiters sent to space in the 1960′s. Also, Wingo is the founder of Skycorp, which has developed equipment for NASA and DARPA in the past, while Cowing is former NASA employee.

These two and their team need to gain control of the ISEE-3 before mid-June 2014, else all their efforts will be wasted. In order to do so, they plan to use a dish to beam radio signals and establish contact with the probe, though it won’t be that easy — hence, the need to raise $125,000 via crowdfunding. How can ordinary people tap into the probe’s onboard lab, you ask? Well, if the mission’s successful, then the team will have software devs build apps, so the scientifically curious can access the probe’s instruments from the ground.

[Image credit: NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center]

[Thanks, Tim]

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