Old Tech Isn’t Necessarily Dead Tech, At Least For NASA

If a NASA mission is successfully deployed in space or on the surface of whatever object where it was trying to land, it’s almost a commonplace that the craft lasts much, much longer than its planned mission length.  For instance, the two rovers NASA landed on Mars in 2004, Spirit and Opportunity, each exceeded their 90 martian day missions by several years (Opportunity is still active, over 10 years later).

If a group of volunteers are successful, NASA can be proud to know that its technology can last decades.  NASA has given a group permission to contact the International Sun-Earth Explorer-3 (ISEE-3), a satellite launched in 1978 that still broadcasts a carrier signal, even though NASA stopped operating the ISEE-3 in 1997.  The crowdfunded effort has already been working on locating the craft by using the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico.  It has also lined up partners and tracked down people with the skills they will need to communicate with the ISEE-3.  Many challenges remain, most around the need to reconstruct the technology of the time so that the craft can recognize the signals the team will send.

The group isn’t kidding around.  They have raised over $150,000 and the leaders have notable NASA experience.  They will need it, as there is no guarantee of success.  In fact, given the trajectory ISEE-3 appears to be on, if action isn’t taken in time, there could be a collision, rather than a fly-by, involving the moon.

I’m sending best wishes to the project, and appreciate that people are interested in using any kind of technology for what it was (and in some cases wasn’t) intended for.  Resistance to obsolescence doesn’t have to be futile.


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