Citizen astronomers and engineers get control of an old satellite from 1978

Success! We Are Now In Command of the ISEE-3 Spacecraft

Thanks to the many WUWT readers that contributed to make this a success! These guys didn’t disappoint. They pulled it off against the odds. Congratulations to them. There’s a great backstory coming related to the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” that I’ll share as soon as I get clearance. – Anthony

The ISEE-3 Reboot Project is pleased to announce that our team has established two-way communication with the ISEE-3 spacecraft and has begun commanding it to perform specific functions. Over the coming days and weeks our team will make an assessment of the spacecraft’s overall health and refine the techniques required to fire its engines and bring it back to an orbit near Earth.

First Contact with ISEE-3 was achieved at the Arecibo Radio Observatory in Puerto Rico. We would not have been able to achieve this effort without the gracious assistance provided by the entire staff at Arecibo. In addition to the staff at Arecibo, our team included simultaneous listening and analysis support by AMSAT-DL at the Bochum Observatory in Germany, the Space Science Center at Morehead State University in Kentucky, and the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array in California.

Of course this effort would not have been possible without the assistance of NASA and the Space Act Agreement crafted by NASA Headquarters, NASA Ames Research center, and the System Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI).

For further information on the ISEE-3 Reboot Project please visit our website at A much more detailed description of our First Contact efforts and future plans will be published on our website next week.

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Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
May 29, 2014 1:26 pm

I love seeing these updates! Congratulations to Dennis Wingo and the entire team. This was apparently accomplished in the middle of an earthquake at the Arecibo Radio Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Shawn in High River
May 29, 2014 1:29 pm

WOW congrats! Truly amazing !

Steve C
May 29, 2014 1:35 pm

Terrific news! Congratulations to all concerned from a somewhat jealous radio amateur.

May 29, 2014 1:47 pm

OK This article which was crowd funded (100%?) made me think, why not fully crowd fund the IPCC and drop all taxpayer funding? I mean surely with the “97%”,, “the science is in” and the support of the hypermedia it would be a no brainer to get ALL the funding they need from a concerned public audience, might even get more!!

May 29, 2014 1:51 pm

Congrats where due.
I foresee plenty of jokes about Wottsie and his crowd not having their own satellite…

May 29, 2014 1:55 pm

What a great accomplishment. To have a bunch of guys and gals in the private sector working in cooperation with other private sector folks and government to accomplish this task gives is hope for the future. There are clearly people out there with brains and ability. To Anthony: When you conceived and implemented WUWT, did ever dream it would take you so far?
REPLY: No, never. It was just a local blog for the local newspaper about science and tech. See here: – Anthony

May 29, 2014 2:37 pm

Way to go! Congratulations.

Gunga Din
May 29, 2014 2:43 pm

Congratulations to a “team” worth rooting for.
(Anthony, did you ever get an answer to that asparagus thing? 😎

May 29, 2014 2:50 pm

My friend (from Olema days) Peter Coyote was in that movie.

May 29, 2014 3:09 pm

Pretty impressive the satellite is still transmitting. It has endured 4 solar maximums since its launch in 1978.

F. Ross
May 29, 2014 3:16 pm

Way To Go!

May 29, 2014 3:17 pm

Just came down from off the dome at the telescope. Thanks for all your support! I will put together a more comprehensive article over the weekend.
Just FYI, both transmitters on the spacecraft have been commanded into engineering telemetry mode and we are receiving data.

May 29, 2014 3:28 pm

sadly I had not had a chance to read up on all this so I am really ignorant on the subject.
but it sounds like its something people here really support so I would like to say I am very glad for you guys.

Rud Istvan
May 29, 2014 3:43 pm

Way to go. Both transmitters still working. Hope the position is not so off you cannot thrust this old bird back into a stable earth orbit. Of the risks you outlined out the outset: funding, check. NASA, check. Bird alive, check. Comm protocols recreated and comm established, check. Now you find out how the systems are, in progress. Already have done more in two months than NASA gets done in years. Great motivated team you have pulled together, Dennis.

Paul Coppin
May 29, 2014 3:48 pm

Dennis, I have an old 97 Ford F150 you can try to reboot for your next project if you’d like… Hmm, I wonder if I can crowdsource the funding for that… 🙂
I saw some of your early work on this – shades of the ham shack! Pretty neat these old “titanium lizzies” still work.

May 29, 2014 3:54 pm

M Simon: “My friend (from Olema days) Peter Coyote was in that movie”
ya, professor J. Allen Hynek was in it too.

May 29, 2014 4:01 pm

Wow! Way to go! They sure don’t make ’em like they used to!

May 29, 2014 4:16 pm

“They pulled it off against the odds. Congratulations to them. ”
I admit that I had my doubts whether all this could be put in place within the very tight time-frame.
Congratulations indeed. Now for the next step.

May 29, 2014 4:30 pm

No word In the Main Stream Media,I wonder why?
Oops!, wait for It,NASA co-ordinates communication with Lost,Vintage,Damaged,Out of control Satellite.

Mac the Knife
May 29, 2014 4:45 pm

denniswingo says:
May 29, 2014 at 3:17 pm
Just FYI, both transmitters on the spacecraft have been commanded into engineering telemetry mode and we are receiving data.
The news just keeps getting better – Congratulations!

Crispin in Waterloo
May 29, 2014 4:49 pm

Wonderful news! Congratulations to the team.

Crispin in Waterloo
May 29, 2014 4:57 pm

Is there any chance we HAMS can pick up the telemetry at some point in future? What is the frequency and polarisation? Will a quad of spirals from the attic work?
I am so impressed you achieved engineering telemetry transmit. This is the best thing since the Mars landing.

May 29, 2014 5:01 pm

Now you are in command of the satellite, what are you threatening to do with it? Will you demand that world governments pay you the sum of one million dollars, or are we doomed no matter what we do?

May 29, 2014 5:46 pm

Congratulations to the team. You are the right stuff. : )
All hero material you all are being made through doing such stuff.

May 29, 2014 6:17 pm

RoHa says: “Now you are in command of the satellite, what are you threatening to do with it? ”
“Same thing we do every day, Pinkie – try to take over the world.”

Power Grab
May 29, 2014 6:46 pm

This. Is. AMAZING!!
Excellent work!

May 29, 2014 6:54 pm

Fine work guys. Huge thumbs up.

May 29, 2014 7:23 pm

Proof once again,,,,, you can herd cats 😉

Gary Pearse
May 29, 2014 7:28 pm

Wow, it chokes me up. I went into studying engineering after Sputnik I. Graduated in geological/mining – hey I needed to make a living and am still at it. My view of the odds on this project were that they were low: too hurried by timing (bird location and fuel remaining for positioning) for successfully carrying out such a complex task on a technology that was so outdated. I am overwhelmed by this success – IMHO it exceeds the original success of putting the satellite up there. Thanks for the thrill of this and the restoration of faith in today’s
engineering/science. I hope it sparks some new interest in space. You must have a few other old timer satellites on your list. We can’t let these new skills go fallow.

May 29, 2014 7:33 pm

Wow. Well done. To be completely honest I didn’t think it would be a success. It was just too much of a “long” shot 😉
A huge congrats to all involved.

Richard D
May 29, 2014 8:43 pm

Kiddies have a new toy to play with. Pathetic. Pick your disaster….The World Health Organization currently estimates that each year malaria causes 300 to 500 million infections and over 1 million deaths each year. Likely there are real problems affecting real people near or far from you who could use brains and treasure to help out.

Jenn Oates
May 29, 2014 8:54 pm

This tickles my fancy more than I can say. Bravo!
Grow up and be a scientist, sez the science teacher!

Dave Wendt
May 29, 2014 9:07 pm

[Cut the language .mod]

May 29, 2014 9:10 pm

Never say never.

Richard D
May 29, 2014 9:17 pm

Dave Wendt says:
May 29, 2014 at 9:07 pm
wow, Dave that’s brilliant….

Richard D
May 29, 2014 9:26 pm

Dave Wendt says:
Well, Dave, I assume Anthony Watts disapproves of your sophomoric acronyms.

Frank Kotler
May 29, 2014 9:54 pm

Receiving data is good. Any data beats any model, any day. Hope it continues to go well!

kadaka (KD Knoebel)
May 29, 2014 10:11 pm

Good time for an astrophysics-related joke:

The Queen shared a joke with Stephen Hawking at a charity event as they mingled at an event to honour one of the country’s leading charities for the disabled.
The monarch and world-famous scientist were among the stars who gathered in St James’s Palace at a reception paying tribute to the work of Leonard Cheshire Disability, which was founded by an RAF pilot in 1948.
When the two met, the Queen said: ‘Have you still got that American voice? – to which Professor Hawking replied ‘Yes, it is copyrighted actually’.

High Times in Jolly Old England indeed.
Oh, and great job on the satellite!
Do you have any other resurrection candidates you wish to zombify under your command?

Richard D
May 29, 2014 10:15 pm

Cheers, mods.
[Thanx! ~mod]

Dave Wendt
May 29, 2014 10:30 pm

Richard D says:
May 29, 2014 at 9:26 pm
Dave Wendt says:
Well, Dave, I assume Anthony Watts disapproves of your sophomoric acronyms.
Being Intentionally Obnoxious Yields Animosity! and Go Forth Yowling!

george e. smith
May 29, 2014 10:42 pm

You guys are just space dumpster divers, of the second kind.
What a gig you’ve gotten your hands on; and evidently a good deal of gas to do plenty of cruising.
Well have fun with your new toy, and give us a look at your scraps every now and then.
Some people just have too much fun, and a jolly good show too.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)
May 29, 2014 11:32 pm

From ossqss on May 29, 2014 at 7:23 pm:

Proof once again,,,,, you can herd cats 😉

There are known methods of herding cats.
Private: Take a partially-emptied re-closed bag of dry cat food and slowly turn it around so it makes the sound of food being poured out, or perhaps play the sound of an electric can opener on an endless loop, and keep walking as the cats follow you along.
Government: Keep making loud noises that will make them run away in panic, and they will all go in the same direction following the guideline you painted on the ground as long as you keep making the scary noises, because you told them they must, as it will be for their own good.
Academic: Gather all the cats together. Convince them of the inherent relativism of the archaic patriarchal hierarchical term “herd” as clearly you can have a herd of one or an individual of many. Empower them to look within and discover an invigorated sense of self-worth that shall inform and energize their navigations through the murky passages of our repressive obsessive misogynist racist society. Then release them into the wilderness, content that in any direction one or more cats shall travel, they are being self-herded on their own unique path to self-defined greatness that they were set upon by YOU.

May 30, 2014 1:36 am

Clever are they to catch.
Spiralling delicately old man made space object .
Now then how when tech.

May 30, 2014 1:58 am

Great news that they have a response and getting data.
There are a couple of things I’d be interested to see from this project
1) are the instruments still working accurately (not sure how that can be verified unless they have onboard ‘standards’?). What is the drift observed in the instruments? Does that help in confirming any assumptions for modern satellite instrumentation?
2) are the instruments showing any significant changes from the early mission to today, for example, in solar energies? If so, are they correct? i.e. after any drift adjustment. does it correlate with ‘modern’ observations?
I haven’t read too much of the original mission findings, so not sure what could be achieved – but it strikes me this is a golden opportunity to actually verify and/or measure any instrumentation variance, etc.

May 30, 2014 3:21 am

Richard D says:
May 29, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Kiddies have a new toy to play with. Pathetic. Pick your disaster….The World Health Organization currently estimates that each year malaria causes 300 to 500 million infections and over 1 million deaths each year. Likely there are real problems affecting real people near or far from you who could use brains and treasure to help out.

Are you for real?
You assume first that this is a binary proposition of either help with the satellite or help with some “disaster”.
You assume that they have skills relevant to the issues you favour.
You assume that they are selfishly choosing not to apply those skills to the issues you favour.
And to cap it off you personally insult them.

May 30, 2014 3:51 am

…..Kiddies have a new toy to play with. Pathetic. Pick your disaster….The World Health Organization currently estimates that each year malaria causes 300 to 500 million infections and over 1 million deaths each year. Likely there are real problems affecting real people near or far from you who could use brains and treasure to help out.
Hmmm…. If fake science had not been used to vilify DDT, those deaths would not be happening.
There is a meme about fake science destroying the world I hear….
Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger, from who I learned about ion propulsion, and who was one of the “Project Paperclip was once asked something similar to this as well”.
To cut to the chase, without investing in science, engineering, and technology, we would all still be eating food cooked on dung fires, and would have a lifespan of about 30 years. The biggest problem that our society has these days are the acts of well meaning but clueless do gooders who don’t understand science or technology but who put themselves into positions of power so that they can force those of us who do know what we are doing, to do stupid crap that will destroy rather than save civilization.
A very brief instance of this is associated with anthropogenic global warming. There is a very simple solution to it, if you think that CO2 is truly the problem. The massive and global implementation of nuclear power, from uranium, thorium, coupled with a crash program to develop fusion long term. Why are we not doing this? Because the clueless ones think that solar panels and wind turbines are sustainable, and that is all we need. If these people are allowed to force our society in that direction, I estimate six to six and a half billion dead.
Think about that.

May 30, 2014 4:53 am

Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:
Congrats to the citizen scientists. This effort should pay a wealth of dividends.

May 30, 2014 5:04 am

Been following this a long time and i applaud them. But to call them ‘citizen’ astronomers and engineers is a bit much. Mostly these people are the original team who put the initial project together. They just don’t get publicly funded any longer.
All they plan now is to return it to the original mission. Nobody expected it to survive its last mission which it was tasked with when considered at end of life.

Jim Scrudder
May 30, 2014 5:19 am

@denniswingo I am over at Fort Buchanan, and am quite excited as well you all pulled this off, Congratulations!!
If you find you need anything you cannot find on the economy (It appears Cherry Coke is only at our commissary) let me know, I can drive over and drop of some things. Also if you are a HAM, there is Israel (KP4LCL) working in the control room there. You’ve probalby already met. He’s a true Radio Nerd and an avid photographer.
Best of luck with the rest of your mission! Truly outstanding stuff. What an amazing life that satellite has had and will continue to have.
(You can contact me via the email at if needed)

May 30, 2014 8:01 am

I contributed to the crowd funding, not knowing whether anything would come out of it. Now I think the investment was indeed good! Well worth the money. Congratulations so far!

David in Michigan
May 30, 2014 11:26 am

@ RoHa: “Will you demand that world governments pay you the sum of one million dollars,…………” Caught me totally by surprise. I miss Mini-Me.

May 30, 2014 12:39 pm

There’s a great backstory coming related to the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”
Don’t tell me…
the combination to control the ISEE-3 was G A F F C.
Fantastic! Just getting it to phone home is quite a feat for those that built it and those who are trying to repurpose it. I long to see the REAL reality TV show that comes from the videographers following them. I might be a little esoteric for some, but it has my rapt attention.
Now, what should the show be called?
Unlikeliest Catch
Interplanetary Survivor
Junkyard Space
Return of the Space Scientist

May 30, 2014 1:09 pm

Now, what should the show be called?
2014: A Space Oddity.

May 30, 2014 8:59 pm

Okay. Around the world in two minutes. I at first was incredulous about announcing that a local private group had taken control of a satellite. What will the hamper head terrorists do now that they know they could, if smart enough, take control of a satellite? Then I woke up. They wear sandals and sheets. All we have to do is rip a toe nail and the sheets off. Their interpretation (cough cough) of the Quran would require that they become a member of the unclean lowlife if they have a blemish and no sheets.
Okay mods. I know you have my best interests at heart and wouldn’t want me to be on the “thou must die” list so snip away. I am clearly out of line here. Chock it up to it being Friday night. But you have to admit, I bet others were thinking the same thing but were not Irish enough, or three sheets to the wind enough, to say it.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)
May 30, 2014 11:33 pm

@Pamela Gray on May 30, 2014 at 8:59 pm:
Considering just the hacking exploits of the Syrian Electronic Army, and how in those countries usually the young but sometimes the old can seemingly break overnight and turn fundamentalist/extremist/terrorist and execute their slaughtering, it’s a more serious threat than you wish to acknowledge.
Plus I heard this satellite has no real computer, and is as smart as a boot. So no encrypted commands or passwords. To command it you need to know the “protocols”. Play with the curious knobs on the mystical door until it opens and you are granted the weapon you desire.
Oh, don’t worry about the “Thou must die” list, as you’ve assuredly already made it as an unclean female who has copulated outside of marriage, voluntarily or otherwise. That, and the promoting of Common Core as more suitable for youths over that which is offered in the Madrasah. Corruption of youth with impure influences is a grave matter.

May 31, 2014 7:32 am

ffffffssssttttblblblbl!!!! Computer screen…meet coffee stain!!!!

May 31, 2014 7:35 am

Eureka!!!! Next block buster movie script!!!! And filled with hamper-headed bad guys alongside evil traitors from the US! Oh man! The script writes itself!!!!

May 31, 2014 7:40 am

Break into the satellite systems, reconfigure programs, tell them to…! I’ld pay to see that movie! It could be another Independence Day event! Except the “alien” invasion are us humans!

May 31, 2014 9:49 am

Mods – Wendt’s latest missive, BIOYA and GFY is another hidden message.
[Yes, all four terms of “endearment and jocularity” were noted at the time. .mod]

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