Failure to Relaunch ISEE-3 Doesn't Spell the End For Satellite Rescue

A crowdsourced effort to take control of an abandoned satellite has ended due to rocket failure. The valiant endeavor may encourage others to try their hand at commandeering old satellites.

What's the Latest?


You may remember this story from early last month about a crowd-sourced effort to take control of a 36-year-old NASA satellite that's been floating aimlessly out of commission since 1998. Sadly, New Scientist reports the efforts to jump-start the meandering International Sun-Earth Explorer 3 (ISEE-3) have failed. The team tasked with commandeering the satellite successfully made contact with it in late May and were pleased to find most of its systems still in working order. Unfortunately, attempts to move ISEE-3 back into a near-Earth orbit ended when the satellite's rocket systems puttered out.

From the New Scientist piece:

"The spacecraft was doing everything we told it to, except there was no fuel, so no oomph," [NASA Watch's Keith] Cowing says. "It was literally the last gasp from the propulsion system."

What's the Big Idea?

Cowing and his associates raised over $150,000 in crowdsourced funds to finance the ISEE-3 Reboot Project. Armed with cash and NASA's blessing, they were able to establish two-way contact with the satellite a few months ago.

The enthusiasm of the folks in that video shows all you need to know about the endeavor. It was a valiant attempt to take control of what had previously been thought of as only space junk. The team almost pulled it off as well -- their methods seemed to be sound, ISEE-3 just ran out of gas at the end.

The exciting prospect of actually commandeering an abandoned satellite has effectively whetted Cowing's appetite for the long term. He tells New Scientist that there's little doubt his team will try again. Their initial effort should pave the way for a future in satellite requisition.

Keep reading at NEW SCIENTIST

Photo credit: fongfong / Shutterstock

Antimicrobial resistance is a growing threat to good health and well-being

Antimicrobial resistance is growing worldwide, rendering many "work horse" medicines ineffective. Without intervention, drug-resistant pathogens could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. Thankfully, companies like Pfizer are taking action.

Image courtesy of Pfizer.
  • Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
  • As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
  • If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
  • Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
  • By taking a multi-faceted approach—inclusive of adherence to good stewardship, surveillance and responsible manufacturing practices, as well as an emphasis on prevention and treatment—companies like Pfizer are fighting to help curb the spread.
Keep reading Show less
Sponsored

An ancient structure visible from space isn’t man-made

Long hidden under trees, it's utterly massive

(Roy Funch)
Surprising Science
  • This 4,000-year-old structure can be seen from space and wasn't built by humans
  • It's made up of 200 million mounds of earth
  • It's still under construction today
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

How Christians co-opted the winter solstice

Christmas has many pagan and secular traditions that early Christians incorporated into this new holiday.

Saturnalia by Antoine Callet
Culture & Religion
  • Christmas was heavily influenced by the Roman festival of Saturnalia.
  • The historical Jesus was not born on December 25th as many contemporary Christians believe.
  • Many staple Christmas traditions predated the festival and were tied into ancient pagan worship of the sun and related directly to the winter solstice.
Keep reading Show less