LOS GATOS (KCBS)— NASA, in a first-of-a kind agreement, has signed with Los Gatos-based Skycorp to allow the group to attempt to contact and possibly command NASA’s International Sun-Earth Explorer-3 which has been dubbed the ‘Zombie Spaceship’ by media outlets because it hasn’t been operational for nearly two decades.
Elizabeth Howell, senior writer for Universe Today, said the group of scientists will try and re-connect the 36-year-old spacecraft explorer, aka, ISEE-3, which was launched in 1978.
The craft conducted various missions, having chased after two comets (including Haley’s in the 1980s) as well as checking out the sun’s solar activity. But since 1997, it’s been floating in space and has remained dormant.
Don’t count ISEE-3 out as space junk quite yet. NASA found that its transmitters are still working, leaving potential for future use. Howell explained that the craft will be passing by Earth at a close trajectory soon, leaving a window of opportunity for the scientists to maneuver the explorer in order to adjust its communications to Earth, which go in and out.
“If all goes well, they’re going to reposition it and decide what to do next with it. It could do a lot of things. It was looking at the solar wind, which is the stream of particles that goes out from the sun and interferes with the Earth’s atmosphere, causing Auroras. It’s a comprehensive spacecraft,” she said.
Skycorp has plenty of NASA expertise behind them. Howell said they’ll be working directly together on this mission and that NASA will provide technical information, but not any funding.
This marks the very first time NASA has worked with an outside group, making it both “exciting” and “scary” Howell explained. Skycorp’s official agreement with NASA was made official earlier this week.