Who is the owner of NASA

Space probes are like cars. Most of them break or lose their charm after a few years. Your design is becoming outdated or the technology is out of date. But sometimes a copy attains classic car status. Suddenly the vehicle, obsolete or not, is restored, cared for and lovingly preserved.

In space, this is currently happening with an astonishingly well-preserved spaceship that NASA sent into space in 1978 under the administration of US President Jimmy Carter: the International Sun-Earth Explorer 3, short ISEE-3. A group of private space fans now wants to help this probe, which has long since been taken out of service, to blossom again. The owner, Nasa, has just given its approval.

Measured against the usual life cycles in space, has ISEE-3 a remarkable history behind it. Once sent into space to measure solar winds, the aircraft was rededicated in 1982 and part of an ambitious space race. Under the new name International Cometary Explorer the probe was commissioned to be the first spaceship to head for Halley's famous comet. In 1985 the probe first flew through the tail of the comet Giacobini-Zinner, only to actually reach the comet Halley a year later, before the Europeans, before Russia and Japan.

In 1997, NASA decided to abandon the research tool, which, however, turned out to be a purely bureaucratic and not a technical decision. The probe remained active even without NASA support. And it still is today.

In 2008, the Deep Space Network responsible for space communication surprisingly discovered radio signals from ISEE-3. In March of this year, amateur radio operators also picked up signals from the probe and calculated its trajectory. This summer, the sprightly spaceship will zoom close to Earth for the first time in 30 years.

A committed group of amateur astronomers now wants to take advantage of this rare opportunity to gain control of the aircraft and, if possible, to send the probe back on research missions. On Wednesday of this week, NASA gave its basic approval for the privately organized "ISEE-3 restart project".

The space enthusiasts have raised more than 130,000 dollars through crowdfunding from donors on the Internet. Some of the money has already been used to buy radio equipment in order to transmit control commands to the approaching probe by mid-June at the latest. Because the devices once used by NASA ground control no longer exist, the hobby researchers have to readjust the control electronics with software.

If all goes well, the hobbyists will wake the vehicle from its current sleep mode, ignite the engines and let it swing into an orbit. There it could be the first real popular probe to provide interested mankind with current data on space weather.