posted 03-18-2014 10:04 AM
NASA's and ESA's International Sun/Earth Explorer 3 (ISEE-3) satellite was launched on Aug. 12, 1978 to study the interaction between the Earth's magnetic field and the solar wind.
On June 10, 1982, it was repurposed (and renamed the International Cometary Explorer, or ICE) to study the interaction between the solar wind and a cometary atmosphere. ICE was sent to visit Comet Giacobini-Zinner in 1985 and Comet Halley in 1986.
On May 5, 1997, NASA ended the ICE mission, and ordered the probe shut down, with only a carrier signal left operating.
Now, the mission design specialist who was responsible for turning ISEE-3 into ICE is trying to regain contact with the spacecraft to resume its original mission.
NPR reports on one man's quest to reawaken "an old friend."
More than 30 years ago, Robert Farquhar stole a spacecraft.
Now he's trying to give it back.
The green satellite, covered with solar panels, is hurtling back toward the general vicinity of Earth, after nearly three decades of traveling in a large, looping orbit around the sun.
If Farquhar, a former mission design specialist for NASA, gets his way, the agency will command the spacecraft to fire its thrusters, veer close to the moon, and slip back into the spot where it was intended to be when it was launched in 1978 — and where it was when Farquhar and his accomplices "borrowed" it.