A zombie spaceship is apparently coming home after nearly 20 years of drifting out through space. The craft was launched back in the late 1970’s and shuttered by NASA in 1997. However now it is returning to the society that abandoned it back then. It was believed the spaceship, the International Sun-Earth Explorer-3, was destined to pass by Earth without any sort of pomp and circumstance, except for a slim chance of crashing into the Moon, or possibly starting to loop purposelessly through the inner solar system over and over. However a shoestring assembly of civilians who decided to hole up in an out-of-business McDonald’s decided to reach out and make contact with it. That was the first step in capturing it back into Earth’s orbit.
After spending 36 years in space, the craft seemed to be in decent working condition. The foremost challenge now will be in figuring out how to command it. No one has the operational manual anymore and zombie spaceships can be inconsistent at times.
Dennis Wingo, who is an entrepreneur, an engineer and has a track record of digging up miracles from space antiques that NASA has basically given up on, stated that his group, who call themselves techno-archaeologists, are up for the challenge. His own business, Skycorp, even has its offices in the defunct McDonald’s which used to serve a Navy base located about 15 minutes to the northwest of San Jose, California. When the base closed up, NASA decided to convert the restaurant building into a research facility for minor technology companies and also nonprofit organizations.
The race to recover the zombie craft started seriously in April of this year. At the ending of May, using a telescope in Puerto Rico, the group was able to get in contact with the spaceship. This officially made Skycorp the first private organization to actually command a spacecraft located outside the orbit of Earth. Mr. Wingo believes his team should be ready to fire up the engines within a couple of weeks.
After it launched in 1978, the spacecraft orbited the Sun between the Sun and Earth, which allowed astronomers to observe for the very first time a high speed torrent of protons and electrons which are known as the solar wind before it ever got to the Earth. NASA was able to use ISEE-3 for several other interplanetary space observations before retiring it in 1997. Since that time, the zombie craft has been doing nothing but going around the Sun on a 355 day orbit. Similar to a race car running the field, ISEE-3 will soon catch up to and then pass Earth in about two months.
Back in 1999, NASA decided to upgrade its Deep Space Network, which is its structure of radio telescopes that are able to communicate with distant space probes. The old receivers which communicated with the zombie ISEE-3 were tossed in the garbage but ISEE-3 was not turned off. So even though Earth was unable to talk with ISEE-3, it was silently waiting for a new command.
In 2008, the Deep Space Network listened temporarily at the distant spot where ISEE-3 was and happened to hear the transporter frequency of the zombie spacecraft’s radio, which was basically the sound of a dial tone. Two years later, NASA decided to restart contact for the 2014 flyby but then decided the scientific payoff was not worth the time, money or effort. That was when Mr. Wingo decided to step in. He was joined by about 20 other individuals who came from around the United States, including numerous members of the original ISEE-3 group. The individuals needed to raise $125,000 to help pay costs to do with the flyby and they ended up collecting almost $160,000, from just under 2,240 donors. They were then able to sign an agreement with NASA to be able to take over.
If everything now goes as planned, the zombie spaceship will be coming home after nearly 20 years of drifting out through space and will hopefully return to its original location.
By Kimberly Ruble