With three days still left to go on their crowdfunding campaign, the hackers behind the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project who wanted to recover the ISEE-3 spacecraft and return it to service, have passed their funding goal.
The project team is still looking for further funding however — another $25,000 — so they can use NASA’s Deep Space Network to range the spacecraft, and their crowdfunding campaign has been extended for another week to help reach that “stretch goal.”
Right now the team is waiting for the Space Act Agreement with NASA to be forwarded to the lawyers for final review — it should be signed in the next day or two — before proceeding. But at least at the moment they’re on track to make first contact with the spacecraft as early as the start of next week.
While the Morehead State University 21-meter dish will act as the primary ground station during the mission to reboot communications, until mid-July — when the spacecraft is within 2 to 3 million km of the Earth — it doesn’t have the power to establish a two-way communications link. The first attempt to contact the spacecraft will therefore be from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
Contacting the spacecraft as early as possible is crucial as every day that passes the ISEE-3 moves a quarter million miles (roughly the distance between the Earth and the Moon) closer to Earth, and each day that passes increases the the length of the burn — and hence the fuel — needed to make the necessary trajectory correction to position the probe into an orbit where it can produce some interesting science.