Can we forget how to talk in 35 years?
Sun Earth Explorer (ISEE3) was launched in 1978 to study solar winds and
later re-tasked to rendezvous with Comet Giacobini-Zinner and Halley
but has been mostly shut down for the last 30 years. Its orbit will
bring it back into communication range in August. While it would be cool
to send a wake-up call and see if we can park it in Earth orbit to see
what 30 years in space does to a satellite, we have lost the ability to
talk with the thing.
Emily Lakdawalla posts her wistful report on
the Planetary Society blog, noting that the ISEE3 was meant to be fully
shut down but somehow the carrier signal was left on, so a wake-up call
was never intended.
article offers an intriguing look at how the pace of technology
consigns our old hardware to the scrapheap (as well as the interplay
between bureaucracy, financial decisions and nostalgia). The
transistorpunk element develops in the comments that follow the article.
The first responses suggest recruiting philanthropic billionaires to
fund a new communications array, but HAM radio operators promptly jump
in and point out that they can hear the carrier signal no problem. If
the original communications specs and instruction set were available we
could open source the project and attempt to talk with ISEE3 using a
software emulator and a $300 laptop.
Imagine if citizens could corral defunct satellites and create an open source orbital network.