On January 30, an amateur astronomer has made contact with a long-lost satellite
The satellite: IMAGE (Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration) was first launched in March 2000 and exceeded his two-year mission by operating until 2005. However, NASA lost contact with it in December 2005, ending the mission in an abrupt manner.
Now, engineers from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center were surprised and shocked to confirm that a signal detected from an amateur astronomer was, indeed, coming from the IMAGE satellite. They used NASA’s Deep Space network to identify the signal.
“On the afternoon of Jan. 30, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland, successfully collected telemetry data from the satellite,” NASA officials said in a statement. “The signal showed that the space craft ID was 166 — the ID for IMAGE. The NASA team has been able to read some basic housekeeping data from the spacecraft, suggesting that at least the main control system is operational.”
IMAGE was the first satellite dedicated to imaging the Earth’s magnetosphere.
“Instead of such in situ measurements, IMAGE employed a variety of imaging techniques to ‘see the invisible’ and to produce the first comprehensive global images of the plasma populations in the inner magnetosphere,” according to NASA’s website. “With these images, space scientists were able to observe, in a way never before possible, the large-scale dynamics of the magnetosphere and the interactions among its constituent plasma populations.”