NASA hands space enthusiasts the keys to a 1970s-era spacecraft | Ars Technica

Fourteen days after I was born, NASA launched a spacecraft designed to study solar winds, before being repurposed to study comets. It's mission ended in 1997, but the craft continued to orbit the sun. It'll be closer to Earth than at any point in decades this summer, and recent contact with the probe let us know all its systems are in good working order.

That's right. A 35 year old spacecraft that's been dormant since my first year of college still works fine and even has some fuel left. Unfortunately, NASA doesn't have the budget to support the craft, even thought it could be useful for further science work.

So, a bunch of nerds decided to take over the space craft and put it to work. Incredibly, NASA gave them an official go-ahead today. It's an unbelievable turn for citizen science, and I'm thrilled with NASA's decision. The race is on now for the team to work out communications and fire it's thrusters in time to bring it into a stable orbit at the L1 Sun-Earth Lagrange point, where it can once again measure the solar winds.

Godspeed, ISEE-3 team.

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