Chatting with ISEE, the 1970s Spacecraft That's Coming Home

Remember that spacecraft that stole your lunch money? The team trying to contact ISEE made their funding target, and used (some of the) funds head south and test their hardware on the Arecibo antenna. They've successfully made first-contact, getting a nice data-stream from the ISEE.


The signal is weaker than anticipated and fades out at the end, which is not what the team expected from ISEE. However, that's highly initial data. It's still one-way contact, with more learning to do before managing to tell the spacecraft we can hear it. As the project gains publicity, more and more engineers and scientists who worked on the original project are emerging. If you or someone you know has technical specs from the original ISEE projects kicking around, get in touch.

In another small-but-vital step, the team has a signed, formal agreement with NASA. This is the first agreement where NASA is allowing a private group to access a spacecraft no longer being used by the organization.

While most of the updates are slow-steps-forward, the project has a film crew documenting the process. For now, we get a few peeks, but hopefully one day we'll get it all collected together in a single, cohesive story with a happy, science-rich ending.


The team is still working on figuring out exactly what to do with ISEE if they manage to get hold of it. So far, the preposed trajectory will skim it along the moon's surface. One of the bits of information they need to finalized the trajectory is information on precisely where the craft is. The project is trying for a stretch-goal for some time on the Deep Space Network which can manage the non-trivial task with ease.


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