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NASA Forgets How To Talk To ICE/ISEE-3 Spacecraft

Unknown Lamer posted about 7 months ago | from the hackers-in-space-was-a-better-movie dept.

Space 166

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Randall Munroe's XKCD cartoon on the ICE/ISEE-3 spacecraft inspired me to do a little research on why Nasa can no long communicate with the International Cometary Explorer. Launched in 1978 ISEE-3 was the first spacecraft to be placed in a halo orbit at one of Earth-Sun Lagrangian points (L1). It was later (as ICE) sent to visit Comet Giacobini-Zinner and became the first spacecraft to do so by flying through a comet's tail passing the nucleus at a distance of approximately 7800 km. ICE has been in a heliocentric orbit since then, traveling just slightly faster than Earth and it's finally catching up to us from behind, and will return to Earth in August. According to Emily Lakdawalla, it's still functioning, broadcasting a carrier signal that the Deep Space Network successfully detected in 2008 and twelve of its 13 instruments were working when we last checked on its condition, sometime prior to 1999.

Can we tell the spacecraft to turn back on its thrusters and science instruments after decades of silence and perform the intricate ballet needed to send it back to where it can again monitor the Sun? Unfortunately the answer to that question appears to be no. 'The transmitters of the Deep Space Network, the hardware to send signals out to the fleet of NASA spacecraft in deep space, no longer includes the equipment needed to talk to ISEE-3. These old-fashioned transmitters were removed in 1999.' Could new transmitters be built? Yes, but it would be at a price no one is willing to spend. 'So ISEE-3 will pass by us, ready to talk with us, but in the 30 years since it departed Earth we've lost the ability to speak its language,' concludes Lakdawalla. 'I wonder if ham radio operators will be able to pick up its carrier signal — it's meaningless, I guess, but it feels like an honorable thing to do, a kind of salute to the venerable ship as it passes by.'"

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Why so expensive? (4, Informative)

X0563511 (793323) | about 7 months ago | (#46395473)

SDR is a thing, and it's not that expensive these days.

The expensive part would be the amplifiers and antennas, and those just spew the signal you feed to them. Generating the signal is cheap.

Re:Why so expensive? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46395483)

Because shoes are expensive, and big dadddy defense contractor needs ten news pairs of them.

Re:Why so expensive? (3, Insightful)

TrentTheThief (118302) | about 7 months ago | (#46395619)

Since when is NASA a big daddy defense contractor? This is a task they could manage in-house with the resources they already have on hand.

The original hardware is missing, sure. But that's no big deal. RF is RF. They can use a Software Defined Radio (SDR) and throw together a program to parse the telemetry into something meaningful. After all, the only thing disposed of was the hardware. The specifications for everything else is on file.

All they need is some support instead of more snarky remarks. Sure, NASA kinda fucked up when the hardware was trashed, but hardware that's been idle for 15-20 years looks like it's only collecting dust (which it was). But who actually knew it was still needed? That is plenty long enough for the engineers who once used it to move on to other employers or to simply grow old enough to reach retirement and leave.

They would have to take budget from somewhere else (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46395799)

You don't want any taxes, so the NASA budget is cut heavily, and here you want them to spend money from a heavily cut budget to talk to a platform that we've already spent the budget for to do something you're not quite sure is wanted doing?

Re:They would have to take budget from somewhere e (2, Insightful)

armanox (826486) | about 7 months ago | (#46395919)

The amount of the budget that NASA takes up our taxes wouldn't notice if they disappeared..

Re:They would have to take budget from somewhere e (5, Interesting)

Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) | about 7 months ago | (#46397215)

Agreed. In 2013, NASA's budget of 17.8 billion dollars made up one half of one percent [wikipedia.org] of the total US budget of about 3.8 trillion dollars. Rounding to the nearest integer, the largest chunk of the budget pie (the Department of Health and Human Services) had a budget 53 times as large as NASA. The Social Security Administration? 50 times. The Department of Defense? 38 times.

To put it another way, we pay 14 NASAs in interest on the national debt!

Re: They would have to take budget from somewhere (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about 7 months ago | (#46396133)

Typically liberal fallacy. You claim, because I want lower taxes, that I want NO taxes. Wrong. I want necessary taxes, minimum waste, minimum government intrusion where it should not intrude.

Hey, I would support NASA spending the money, if only for the scientific exercise of figuring this out. Though they may want to enlist the ham community to help - maybe help design a SDR?

Re: They would have to take budget from somewhere (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46396529)

Typically liberal fallacy. You claim, because I want lower taxes, that I want NO taxes. Wrong. I want necessary taxes, minimum waste, minimum government intrusion where it should not intrude.

Excellent, so you agree then we should pull all our troops out of Afghanistan, ASAP, as well as getting our mitts out of Somalia, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Ukraine, etc? We shouldn't be intruding in other people's business, should we? We could easily close 500+ military bases and just, well... stop intruding in other people's business around the world, let them figure it out for themselves.

Re: They would have to take budget from somewhere (4, Insightful)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | about 7 months ago | (#46396683)

Typically liberal fallacy. You claim, because I want lower taxes, that I want NO taxes. Wrong. I want necessary taxes, minimum waste, minimum government intrusion where it should not intrude.

Excellent, so you agree then we should pull all our troops out of Afghanistan, ASAP, as well as getting our mitts out of Somalia, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Ukraine, etc? We shouldn't be intruding in other people's business, should we? We could easily close 500+ military bases and just, well... stop intruding in other people's business around the world, let them figure it out for themselves.

Sounds like a good start to me. But that's not what the elitist pricks in Washington typically do. Defense contractors are their wealthy friends, while soldiers and sailors are powerless fodder. So they would just shift the money around, cut the VA first, military pensions and salaries next (oh, wait .. they've already started that), make sure that Lockeed and Boeing keep making jets and Northrop Grumman keeps making ships, and continue racking up as much debt as they do now.

Re: They would have to take budget from somewhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46396809)

Typically liberal fallacy. You claim, because I want lower taxes, that I want NO taxes. Wrong. I want necessary taxes, minimum waste, minimum government intrusion where it should not intrude.

Excellent, so you agree then we should pull all our troops out of Afghanistan, ASAP, as well as getting our mitts out of Somalia, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Ukraine, etc? We shouldn't be intruding in other people's business, should we? We could easily close 500+ military bases and just, well... stop intruding in other people's business around the world, let them figure it out for themselves.

Be careful with your flames.

Your series of overblown giant straw men is downright dangerous.

Re: They would have to take budget from somewhere (1)

TangoMargarine (1617195) | about 7 months ago | (#46397727)

Sure.

Re: They would have to take budget from somewhere (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about 7 months ago | (#46397729)

We shouldn't be intruding in other people's business"

Ok, make your case. Why should we not be involved in those regions?

And don't try and frame my challenge as a defense of any of this. You imply that we have no business on those regions. Explain please. If you can.

Re: They would have to take budget from somewhere (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 7 months ago | (#46397515)

You claim, because I want lower taxes, that I want NO taxes. Wrong. I want necessary taxes, minimum waste, minimum government intrusion where it should not intrude.

Great. Define minimum. Define what you consider unnecessary government intrusion. I think you are going to find that to be a relatively difficult exercise. Would you support taxes for research that will will have a long term payback to the economy of several multiples of the amount paid plus expansion of our scientific understanding of the universe? NASA provides that. Is that worth the investment? It's not strictly speaking necessary but it does have a payback.

On the other hand the budget of NASA is a rounding error compared to Medicare and Defense spending so unless you have already addressed those I think you are blowing smoke.

Hey, I would support NASA spending the money, if only for the scientific exercise of figuring this out.

So you don't really want minimum "necessary" taxes? You seem a bit conflicted here.

Re: They would have to take budget from somewhere (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about 7 months ago | (#46397765)

Yes, it is complex. We have representatives who should be seeking advice, and let the process work. And yes, the lobbyists arr a problem. Citizen involvement is critical, and we are largely not involved.

Re:They would have to take budget from somewhere e (2)

TangoMargarine (1617195) | about 7 months ago | (#46397711)

I don't mind paying taxes, I just wish they wouldn't be spent idiotically on unnecessary military bloat and partisan posturing.

Re:Why so expensive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46395819)

But, by time they worked up a contract,for a low cost "space company only bidder" got approval, got funding, got the contractor to some office space, they may as well give it to the boy scouts to play with. That would be 5 years down the line with the way congress works, but, if the boy scouts got hold of it, would they let it land in WDC?

Re:Why so expensive? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46395887)

Since when is NASA a big daddy defense contractor?

They aren't, and that's the point. NASA receives a small fraction of the budget, while big daddy defense contractors receive a lot.

Re:Why so expensive? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46395933)

The amount of time it would take someone on staff to read through the specification without implementing it would probably cost them more than they want to spend on it, let alone the time of someone to actually implement and double check a program to generate and receive appropriate signals. Maybe if they had planned ahead and had the nearly free labor of undergrads doing summer research projects work on it, they could have had something up. Although all too often grants and such are kind of narrow about what you can spend money and time on, leaving a lot of interesting side work to be done after hours assuming people involved have the time and energy. That goes doubly so when it comes down to just doing something for coolness or "honorable" type work, and the potential science outcome is limited.

Because NASA wants pork, not science (0)

Squidlips (1206004) | about 7 months ago | (#46397405)

NASA is geared toward manned spaceflight pork and any time they can steal money from the unmanned missions, they will. That is why Carl Sagan et. al. started the Planetary Society--to prevent the poaching of funds. It is a continual fight. The current admin tried to shutdown all big planetary missions to fuel the pointless SLS and other manned pork. It is was a struggle just to get a whimpy next lander funded. And forget about a Europa probe of Titan.

Re:Why so expensive? (0, Troll)

nospam007 (722110) | about 7 months ago | (#46395489)

This is a government agency, they don't do cheap, they don't know how.

Re:Why so expensive? (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 7 months ago | (#46395511)

This is a government agency, they don't do cheap, they don't know how.

Yes; but it's also a government agency that probably has a few geeks on payroll. As an official project, there probably isn't even time to circulate the RFPs and cut the POs. As a hobby project, it's much more likely that somebody just needs to look the other way as whatever signalling gear can hit the right frequency sees a little after-hours misuse.

Re:Why so expensive? (4, Insightful)

bigpat (158134) | about 7 months ago | (#46396853)

Yes; but it's also a government agency that probably has a few geeks on payroll. As an official project, there probably isn't even time to circulate the RFPs and cut the POs. As a hobby project, it's much more likely that somebody just needs to look the other way as whatever signalling gear can hit the right frequency sees a little after-hours misuse.

Just exactly what I was thinking. If there are still some useful instruments on this spacecraft, then could a bunch of volunteers come together under a University or non-profit to put together a transmitter and mission plan by August?

Most people in the space exploration business get one or two shots at a mission like this in their lives, so I think some mix of people that worked on this originally, some university students and some geekend warriors might be willing to pull it together.

Seems that NASA would just have to designate someone to be in charge and hand over the documentation to increase the odds of success over someone just making this a hobby project on the DL, but then it would be a matter of getting a relatively small team of expert volunteers together and matching them up with some time on a big enough transmitter to actually get a signal to the spacecraft.

Re:Why so expensive? (2)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 7 months ago | (#46395539)

Yes. And.

This is a systemic problem perpetuated by the companies who bid for government contracts.

Jobs bid and completed outside the influence of government (and perhaps organized crime... but I repeat myself) are not associated with cost overruns on every single project.

Re:Why so expensive? (2)

geogob (569250) | about 7 months ago | (#46395549)

Of course they know how. But they are not allowed to... or more accurately they do not allow themselves to do cheap.

But that is the first part of the price equation... equally strong is the polical part. A lot of decision are based on politcal decision rather than engineering choices or, even, common sense. Those decision often drive the prices to new hights.

Re:Why so expensive? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46396207)

NASA is a purchasing organization run by scientists whose first priority is satiating scientific interest, even if the interest is only tangentially related to the overarching mission. They are not very worried about schedule or cost; that's the thing about a purchasing orgainzation. NASA goes to a company like ATK* and says, "We need rockets, and we like this design and want you to incorporate this stuff in your design. Then we want to know everything about how you make it and why you make the design choices you do."

Then, ATK makes some rockets and incorporating the new materials is difficult. NASA has a bunch of questions about new corrosion problems or rubber chemistry and since NASA is a sciency purchasing orgainzation and ATK wants to be a production organization there is some mismatch in mission. NASA as the customer requires their tangential questions to be answered, and ATK acquesces. Both organizations learn a lot about the systems. From a Science perspective, vast sums about chemistry and materials compatibility have been added to the human knowledge base. From a Production standpoint, a lot of engineers were sidetracked on tangent projects, causing schedule slips when a change to a known material might have been more expedient or less expensive. At the same time, the ATK engineers learn a lot about the tertiary effects of making primary design choices, and the quality of the products improves.

It is the difference in missions (science vs production) between NASA and the parts supplier that cause the high price of fancy rockets, not that someone at NASA spends too much or that the contractor charges too much. People who assert otherwise don't understand the complex customer relations and product requirements between government (or private) agencies on REALLY BIG projects and purchasing contracts.

*can substitute ATK for any big contractor

Re:Why so expensive? (3, Interesting)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about 7 months ago | (#46396463)

They do know cheap. And they know cheap gets you Apollo 1 do-overs.

Re:Why so expensive? (5, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | about 7 months ago | (#46395571)

I suspect the point of the cartoon was a thing called "crowdfunding"

(And to draw attention to the approaching window for actually doing something...)

Re:Why so expensive? (5, Informative)

Noryungi (70322) | about 7 months ago | (#46395721)

The HAM are already on it, bless their souls:

http://ww2.amsat.org/amsat/arc... [amsat.org]

If they can make it (meaning: at the very least being able to get the carrier), it will be a hack of historic proportions.

What about Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station? (1)

bigpat (158134) | about 7 months ago | (#46397335)

Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station has some dishes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G... [wikipedia.org]

Re:Why so expensive? (1)

McFly777 (23881) | about 7 months ago | (#46397757)

Not to diss the listening effort, but what would really be cool would be if the hams figured out how to speak to it, and do what NASA seemingly can't: fix it's orbit.

Re:Why so expensive? (3, Interesting)

yesterdaystomorrow (1766850) | about 7 months ago | (#46395743)

Here's how it works.

In the NASA system, the first thing any project needs is a cost estimate from the bean counters. They employ a vast amount of historical data to estimate costs. To get project approval, you must promise to spend that much money: if you don't, NASA management will assume you don't understand the difficulty, and will fail. Then, of course, you must actually build a project organization with a staff capable of spending the money.

This can go wrong rather badly. If the project is actually a lot easier than the bean counters assumed, you have now set yourself up for a massive overrun. Squander is harder to manage than lean development. But when you overrun, the data is duly entered in the bean counters' database, and the next similar project has to come up with even more money.

Communications may be the area where costing is the farthest from the real state of the art.

Re:Why so expensive? (2)

bigpat (158134) | about 7 months ago | (#46397013)

There are also procedures for surplussing government property. And other ways that someone at NASA could spend a few hours, put together an RFP for some University, non-profit or other outside entity to put together a mission plan to reestablish communications, control and make some use of the space craft. Maybe it is really just redundant given much better instruments on other probes, but there is still likely some value that some University researchers could utilize. Heck sounds like it could be a pretty cool project to unleash team of University students and mostly volunteers on.

Re:Why so expensive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46396377)

"...is a thing"? What are you, twelve years old?

Re:Why so expensive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46396419)

If this was the 1950s or 1960s America, some university post-grads would scrounge up the hardware and cobble together the software and GET IT DONE.

We no longer live in that America.

We're weenies.

Re:Why so expensive? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 7 months ago | (#46397217)

If this was the 1950s or 1960s America, some university post-grads would scrounge up the hardware and cobble together the software and GET IT DONE.

We no longer live in that America.

We're weenies.

A subscription to this magazine [nostalgicamerica.com] ought to make you deliriously happy.

Re:Why so expensive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46397549)

If this was the 1950s or 1960s America, some university post-grads would scrounge up the hardware and cobble together the software and GET IT DONE.

This still describes experimentalists in physics graduate school even just as recent as five years ago. There is a substantial amount of work that gets done because someone kept old equipment in an overflowing closet or former lab somewhere, and the most important person is the one or two people in the department that actually know where to look for things. At the last university I worked at, I would guess at least half of the students had a critical part in their experiment that was more than twice their age, and nearly all had used or had around such parts. That said, when trying to cobble things together for actual work and science results, you sometimes run out of time to do it for random cool but less fruitful things, or get distracted because you're busy trying to cobble things together to shrink quarters or see who can make the biggest arc, etc., instead of trying to communicate with an old satellite.

Re:Why so expensive? (3, Interesting)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 7 months ago | (#46396891)

SDR is a thing, and it's not that expensive these days.

The expensive part would be the amplifiers and antennas, and those just spew the signal you feed to them. Generating the signal is cheap.

I suspect the issue is more "why?" Why would they bother spending even a few thousand dollars on a satellite that was supposed to have been shut down 15 years ago and for which they (quite clearly) have no more use? And it would cost money, if only the time they spend using the amplifiers/antennas. Considering that the DSN communications system already has to support multiple missions, adding one extra that serves no useful function is a complete waste of resources.

Re:Why so expensive? (1)

porcinist (1847634) | about 7 months ago | (#46396973)

Yes, can someone explain WHY this is so expensive? It is distinctly possible that there is something I don't know about, but an SDR system under 2k. I'm sure it isn't the dish. Does it need some kind of insane amp that nobody has anymore and we can't rebuild? I can accept there is a reason it is expensive and that I don't know about, but I haven't seen an explanation yet. Hell, if there was a reasonable plan to build a system to talk to the spacecraft, I'd put in a few thousand to talk to talk to the spacecraft.

Voyager 6 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46395501)

Someday voyager 6 will destroy us

Re: Voyager 6 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46395575)

That's Veja you clout!

Re:Voyager 6 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46395581)

Someday voyager 6 will destroy us

V'Ger not Voyager 6. Turn in your nerd credentials.

Re:Voyager 6 (3, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 7 months ago | (#46395673)

How about we just call it "The V'Ger formerly known as Voyager 6"?

Re: Voyager 6 (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about 7 months ago | (#46396155)

How about we stick to the script. Or you make your own reality. And not on my lawn.

1337 issue (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46395521)

Did anyone else notice the XKCD issue's number is 1337?

Re: 1337 issue (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46395545)

That was the point.

Re:1337 issue (2)

geogob (569250) | about 7 months ago | (#46395559)

wooooosh, makes the shooting star.

It's The Same Old Story (5, Funny)

avgjoe62 (558860) | about 7 months ago | (#46395551)

Like in any relationship, thing are always changing. One partner moves a little further away, the other becomes disinterested and soon one of them just doesn't understand the other.

I would suggest couple's therapy.

Re:It's The Same Old Story (1)

14erCleaner (745600) | about 7 months ago | (#46396283)

Kind of like the Slashdot staff and the "Most Discussed" sidebar. Anybody notice that it hasn't changed in a week?

They didn't "forget" (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46395585)

Why don't the editors change the title?

Re:They didn't "forget" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46395609)

Nope. It's more like they lost the punchcards.

Re:They didn't "forget" (2)

redneckmother (1664119) | about 7 months ago | (#46397275)

Nope. It's more like they lost the punchcards.

Nah, it's just in a Word 95 .doc file.

Re:They didn't "forget" (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about 7 months ago | (#46397535)

At that vintage, Wordstar is more likely.

Re:They didn't "forget" (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46395697)

The editors have forgotten about this article. Once a editor posts, the article moves into the past, which is a mysterious place outside of time and space. Such a system allows them to duplicate post about this same topic tomorrow and then again next month.

Disturbing, heartwrenching and yet exhilarating. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46395617)

It invokes in me a strange emotion to ponder the fact that there are now potential targets of archaeology in "deep space" and that those archaeological artifacts are older than I am.

Re:Disturbing, heartwrenching and yet exhilarating (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46395943)

Most atoms in the universe are billions of years old. They're in you now. What emotion does that evoke (not invoke BTW)?

What a coincidence!? (0)

JigJag (2046772) | about 7 months ago | (#46395645)

did you see that the XKCD referred in the summary is 1337? Elite in leetspeak [wikipedia.org] . My bet is it's not coincidence at all.

Re:What a coincidence!? (1)

Noryungi (70322) | about 7 months ago | (#46395707)

I believe it is a coincidence, but Randall milked it for all it is worth. Obligatory reference to Hackers and all.

The amazing thing is that he has been able to weave this into a funny cartoon about a real thing.

Re:What a coincidence!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46395929)

Randall milked it for all it is worth.

Yeah, possums don't give a fuck.

Do the only decent thing... (1)

selectspec (74651) | about 7 months ago | (#46395677)

...and shoot it down.

HAM (1)

repetty (260322) | about 7 months ago | (#46395691)

The answer to this is obvious: Contract with a HAM radio club or some group associated with the American Radio Relay League to do it.

Re:HAM (1)

spiritplumber (1944222) | about 7 months ago | (#46395699)

Given that the marginal cost to do so is basically zero, I have to wonder why not.

Re:HAM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46396123)

Try the ham-radio solution, and you will learn why it is so cheap.

Re:HAM (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 7 months ago | (#46395713)

To do what, exactly?

Re:HAM (5, Informative)

Megane (129182) | about 7 months ago | (#46395855)

Reading some threads about it yesterday, I found that some hams in Germany have priority access to a 20m dish. [amsat.org] Woah.

Re:HAM (1)

LongearedBat (1665481) | about 7 months ago | (#46396589)

A 20m plate of pork?!? Will need barrels of German brew to wash it down with.

what's the frequency, Kenneth? (1)

swschrad (312009) | about 7 months ago | (#46396455)

and the mode of 256 bit encoding? might be able to whack some sense into a little program and PSK the thing. "2 GHz" is a little vague.

I think they could get some 8-foot dishes, 2-axis rotors, and put a backyard array of 8 or 12 antennas together for less than the cost of a fleet car. repurpose some microwave test equipment from one of their labs, and slap together a ham-worthy hack within a month. good project for the mossy Valued Fellows and a few interns, keep them out of the beancounters' way.

Re:HAM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46397539)

The answer to this is obvious: Contract with a HAM radio club or some group associated with the American Radio Relay League to do it.

If HAM clubs have deep space transceivers capable of sending a signal and receiving a response across half a billion miles nowadays, the amateur radio scene is healthier than everyone thought.

april is next month? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46395695)

beta or not this is hilarious : )
I recommend saving some of the carrier wave to *doc format and then trying to open it word : )

Open Source it (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 7 months ago | (#46395729)

Why not publish many of the specifications so that hackers can cobble together a mission control and then make something happen? I suspect that if you put out an application that you would get 1,000,000 engineers who would drop what they are doing to help out for free. Literally you would get 1,000,000 engineers.

Re:Open Source it (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 7 months ago | (#46395917)

If there's any kind of "little black box" on that vehicle that uses any kind of "secure" communication protocols, even from 30 years ago, the time and effort required to publish a functional, redacted communication protocol will cost far more than the balance of the mission calculations, communication hardware, etc.

Re:Open Source it (1)

bigpat (158134) | about 7 months ago | (#46396921)

As much as I agree with the idea of open sourcing it...NASA would need to limit this to just one team and one mission. Otherwise you get multiple different teams sending commands to a satellite which would confuse the heck out of it.

If NASA can't do something with the satellite, then it should just hand the keys off to a University or other non-profit that has a shot to pull something together by August.

Re:Open Source it (3, Funny)

BigT (70780) | about 7 months ago | (#46397621)

Why not have multiple groups controlling? It eventually worked out for Twitch Plays Pokemon.

Re:Open Source it (1)

TangoMargarine (1617195) | about 7 months ago | (#46397879)

I think a million is being grossly overoptimistic. Maybe several thousand.

For comparison, there were 1,316 kernel devs involved in Linux 3.2.

http://royal.pingdom.com/2012/... [pingdom.com]

Facebook Link? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46395873)

Since when is a Facebook page a legitimate news source?

What, exactly, is missing? (3, Interesting)

dtmos (447842) | about 7 months ago | (#46395959)

Is it the entire 2 GHz transmitter that is missing? Just the power amplifier? Just the PCM modulator? The feed for the 70m dish?

What, exactly, is missing?

WOW (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46396013)

Who built that thing? Its been puttering about in space, outside of our planets protective magnetic field for 36 years and its still almost fully functional? Some of the satellites/probes these days don't last 2 years let alone 36, give those people a big pat on the back and at least a consultation job on current satellite/probe projects.

Re:WOW (3, Interesting)

bobbied (2522392) | about 7 months ago | (#46396511)

Who built that thing? Its been puttering about in space, outside of our planets protective magnetic field for 36 years and its still almost fully functional?

Problem is we really *don't* know how much is functional beyond the beacon used to track it. As I understand it there is very little (if any) telemetry data coming from the thing. Because we cannot talk to it, we cannot ask it any questions or reprogram it. My guess is that there is very little chance that much of value works, or NASA would have kept the equipment needed to communicate with it.

SDR - Software defined radio (1)

strangeattraction (1058568) | about 7 months ago | (#46396041)

Fortunately there is a solution. Software defined radio. If that were to deployed SDR as part of the communications network we would be able to talk to old equipment.

Re:SDR - Software defined radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46396107)

Great. Where can I download the software for talking to ICE/ISEE-3 ?!?

Re:SDR - Software defined radio (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 7 months ago | (#46396621)

From a dial up bulletin board that went down in 1997. Maybe you should try asking on FIDONET if the SysOp can put the system back up for you... (Assuming you still have a modem and a phone line. )

Obligatory xkcd (5, Funny)

troon (724114) | about 7 months ago | (#46396083)

http://xkcd.com/1337/ [xkcd.com]

Oh, wait...

just wait (2)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 7 months ago | (#46396191)

Just wait until the prove discovers that not only did communication stop for no reason but the planet was taken over my talking apes!

Makes Seti Seem Silly (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46396211)

So we can't communicate with our own spacecraft, but we think we'll be able to talk to aliens?

Coming soon ... TwitchPlaysICE/ISEE-3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46396343)

With independent groups of ham people working on it, it's hopefully just a matter of time until one or more succeed to communicate with the probe. Question is, whose control commands will be processed (is the probe currently in Democracy or Anarchy mode? ;) )

isn't this the plot of the first Star Trek movie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46396499)

Why don't we just send someone up there to manually enter the codes? And does he really *have* to pass through the galactic anus first?

Never even estimated the cost (1)

leandrod (17766) | about 7 months ago | (#46396541)

What fazed me is ðey never even estimated ðe costs

Re:Never even estimated the cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46397341)

I presume that's because someone in NASA estimated the costs of estimating the costs and decided it wasn't worth it.

Wait, wait . .. . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46396723)

What if we establish communications and find found it calls itself IC'/IS'E-3 now.

Ultimate hobbyist project? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46396725)

Wouldn't it be cool if a group of amateur enthusiasts got together to communicate with it?

Now, let's take a giant leap of logic - that the communication protocol might be released by NASA. That would drastically cut down on reverse engineering, which you probably can't easily do on a flying bird. From there, this becomes a matter of building some fairly straightforward radio equipment. Modern software radios could drastically speed up the implementation process.

What would NASA say to it? (2)

tomhath (637240) | about 7 months ago | (#46396759)

It's nice that the spacecraft is still functioning after all these years. But given the orbit it's in and the antiquated instruments it has on board, is there really any reason to establish communication with it? NASA seems to consider it another piece of space junk.

Re:What would NASA say to it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46397681)

This: "It may be possible to capture the spacecraft in 2014, when it again makes a close approach to Earth. If the craft is recovered, it has already been donated by NASA to the Smithsonian Institution."

They didn't "forget" how to talk to it! (0)

ruiner13 (527499) | about 7 months ago | (#46396965)

They lost the ability to talk to it, they didn't forget how to. They lack the equipment to do it, but they know how to build it, they just don't have the funding and/or desire to do so. Small difference, but your version of the headline sure is sensationalist! What happened to this site?

Re:They didn't "forget" how to talk to it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46397151)

What happened to this site? You must be new here ... wait ... no you've been here for some time... Guess you've just not been paying attention! Sensational is the norm with headlines

Re:They didn't "forget" how to talk to it! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46397581)

Yes, they did "forget". In much the same way you've forgotten 90% of the things you "learned" in high school.

I work in an institute for particle physics and we only recently shut down one of our old accelerators from the 70s. We cannot turn it back on again. Even if we wanted to. As all the engineers, physicists, and operators who designed, built and maintained that machine are either dead or retired. The plans are in storage, but God help the poor soul who has to try and find the most relevant schematics, which will, in turn, omit any small modifications made to the machine since its inception. Not to mention the antiquated source code, hardware requirements, etc.

It is easier to gut the machine and rebuild it from scratch than turn it on again.

Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46397255)

"Could new transmitters be built? Yes..."

"...in the 30 years since it departed Earth we've lost the ability to speak its language"

Huh? Those two sentences contradict each other. We have the ability to "speak the language", but we choose not to.

A dracononian cut (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 7 months ago | (#46397317)

"Thanks, Obama!"

Seriously, remember these politicians lose fewer votes cancelling this stuff than they do reducing SS payments 0.0000001%.

THIS ISNT NEWS. (1)

bloggerhater (2439270) | about 7 months ago | (#46397369)

What is with all the dated shit sifting to the top of slashdot lately?!?

Headline Contradicts Summary (1)

TangoMargarine (1617195) | about 7 months ago | (#46397675)

No, nobody "forgot" how to do it; the hardware simply doesn't exist anymore. It's an implementation detail, not a knowledge gap. (Unless it's the other way around and the summary is wrong while the headline is right.)

Fail (1)

The Cat (19816) | about 7 months ago | (#46397793)

America couldn't build dogshit if it backed a dump truck full of scrambled eggs into a kennel.

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