Crowd Supporting Space Research

18.06.2014

The American space probe „ISEE-3“(International Sun/Earth Explorer) later renamed as “ICE” (International Cometary Explorer) was sent into heliocentric orbit in 1978. The mission of the space probe was to provide new data on the sun, earth, and comets. ICE was a versatile forerunner. This is the first probe to provide information on the solar winds, as well as on the composition of comets: these consist mainly of ice, gases, and organic molecules. It also supported other probes, such as the sun probe Ulysses, in their missions. Although ICE was officially abandoned in 1997, it is still floating around in space.

New Space Data

In 2008, the Deep Space Network, a telecommunications system of satellite antennas belonging to NASA, received signals again from the space probe. It is expected to approach the Earth during the summer of 2014. Researchers from the observatory in Bochum have already received some weak signals from it when they directed their antennas towards the probe. In May 2014, NASA had officially allowed amateur researchers to collect data on the unmanned vehicle, evaluate, and share it with the research community. The Space College, which trains future space researchers, would like to take advantage of the probe being close to the Earth in order to direct the probe on a suitable orbit and collect new information in this manner. NASA had practically agreed to the so-called “Isee-3 Reboot Project”. Some of the project co-workers had developed software and hardware in an attempt to achieve a better communication with ICE and regain control of the probe. Keith Cowing, a former NASA employee thinks that the probe could even explore other comets.

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Furthermore, researchers wanted to use the Deep Space Network for a more accurate localisation of the probe. However, the US Space Authorities did not want to make any funds available for the project. The project members started a Crowdfunding campaign on Rockethub with a huge success: Although the initial target was to raise US$125,000 in donations, they actually ended up raising the sum of US$160,000 : The German organisation AMSAT Deutschland, with their hobby space researchers, is also participating in the project. Apart from the many benefits that could be achieved for academic projects, some data on the weather and the durability of the probes in space could be obtained, which would also be interesting for hobby radio operators. It is crucial to establish contact with the probe by the middle of June at the latest in order to achieve the desired goals.