This is just absurdly cool.
The ISEE-3/ICE space probe was launched in 1978.
In 1997, it’s mission complete, it was sent a shutdown signal.
In 2008, we discovered it hadn’t shutdown, was still responding to commands, and still had fuel.
And it’s orbit was going to bring it near Earth in 2014.
NASA no longer has the equipment for communicating with it and decided it would be too difficult and expensive to rebuild it. (Right about now, I’m thinking about V’Ger. “The creator does not answer.”)
In March of this year, xkcd published comic #1337 with the idea of a group of online volunteers re-establishing contact.
In May of this year someone actually did it!
- Announcement of taking command: http://spacecollege.org/isee3/we-are-now-in-command-of-the-isee-3-spacecraft.html
- Rockethub fundraiser: http://www.rockethub.com/42228
- xkcd 1337 (“Hack”): http://xkcd.com/1337/
- xkcd blag entry about this: http://blog.xkcd.com/2014/05/30/isee-3/
According to the Rockethub page, contact was lost again on August 10, but it’s still amazingly cool that they were able to pull this off. (And for less than $200,000 to boot!)