September 2014 Archives

International Space Apps Challenge

Join us for Space Apps 2015

"NASA and other space agencies around the world are preparing for the next International Space Apps Challenge. The International Space Apps Challenge is an international mass collaboration that takes place in cities around the world. The event embraces collaborative problem solving with a goal of producing relevant open-source solutions to advance space exploration missions and improve life on Earth. NASA is leading this global collaboration along with a number of additional government collaborators and local partner organizations."

Creating Digital Badges for NASA Education

Penn State to build digital education credentials for NASA, Penn State

"Penn State will be receiving a $500,000 subcontract from Texas State University, the recipient of a larger grant from NASA to provide professional development for teachers using NASA-related science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) content. Based on its success leading the NASA Aerospace Education Services Project, Penn State will contribute by building and developing a digital badge system."

Applying Citizen Science Tools to Astronomy

Citizen Scientists Probe Early Galaxies, Sky and Telescope

"Now, astronomers using data collected by Galaxy Zoo -- a crowd-sourced astronomy project that invites the public to analyze fuzzy images of distant galaxies -- are peering deeper into the universe in search of these barred galaxies. "Galaxy Zoo works because spotting features in galaxies is a task well suited to humans. We as a species are great at pattern recognition," says project astronomer Brooke Simmons (Oxford, U.K.). "And you don't need to be an astrophysicist to recognize a boxy shape inside a rounded disk."

Combining human and machine learning for morphological analysis of galaxy images, astro-ph.IM

"The increasing importance of digital sky surveys collecting many millions of galaxy images has reinforced the need for robust methods that can perform morphological analysis of large galaxy image databases. Citizen science initiatives such as Galaxy Zoo showed that large datasets of galaxy images can be analyzed effectively by non-scientist volunteers, but since databases generated by robotic telescopes grow much faster than the processing power of any group of citizen scientists, it is clear that computer analysis is required. Here we propose to use citizen science data for training machine learning systems, and show experimental results demonstrating that machine learning systems can be trained with citizen science data. Our findings show that the performance of machine learning depends on the quality of the data, which can be improved by using samples that have a high degree of agreement between the citizen scientists. The source code of the method is publicly available."

ISEE-3 Reboot Project Featured on VOA

Citizen-Scientists Take Control of Old Satellite, VOA

"For the first time, the American space agency has given control of one of its spacecraft to a team of citizen-scientists. The satellite was launched in 1978 and had not been active since 1997. But the citizen group has found a way to make it useful again. Space agency scientists have a name for the satellite. It is known as the International Sun Earth Explorer 3, or ISEE-3. ISEE-3 studied space weather beginning in the late 1970s. It also gathered information about particles flowing from the sun. These particles, also known as solar wind, can damage satellites and electrical systems and block radio signals."

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ISEE-3 is in Safe Mode

Figure 1: ISEE-3 Post Flyby Trajectory (Courtesy of Mike Loucks

Since the lunar flyby on August 10th the ISEE-3 Reboot team has continued to work with Google Creative Lab to bring to full fruition the website to provide real time data from ISEE-3. We have been working with the various dishes that have supported us until now, including Arecibo, Bochum, the SETI Institute, Morehead State and others. We now have a problem.

The ground stations listening to ISEE-3 have not been able to obtain a signal since Tuesday the 16th. Arecibo, Morehead, Bochum, SETI, as well as the Usuda 64 meter dish in Japan and the Algonquin 45 meter dish in Canada have all pointed at the spacecraft with no positive results. So, at this time we are assuming that the spacecraft has gone into safe mode.

What This Means

Safe mode on ISEE three can basically only occur from one problem, loss of power. Before the lunar flyby ISEE-3 orbited closer to the sun than the Earth. This resulted in a very good power profile for the spacecraft. However, as seen in the figure 1 here, since the flyby the spacecraft is traveling much farther away from the sun than it has been before:

We have not had many opportunities to get data from the spacecraft since the flyby as the antenna configuration has also been much worse from an attitude perspective. Also, we no longer have propellant to change the attitude of the spacecraft to improve this configuration. We can change the antenna pointing a bit but the first time we tried it, it did not work.

Next Steps

When ISEE-3 goes into safe mode it turns off all of the experiments and it turns off both transmitters and waits for help. Due to some uncertainty in the trajectory this may end up being a bit more of a problem than otherwise. We are working now to put together the commands to turn the transponders back on and obtain engineering telemetry. The last telemetry we have looked ok, but the spacecraft is still traveling farther away from the sun, and thus it is probable that last week the voltage on the power bus dropped enough to trigger the safe mode event. There is no functioning battery on the spacecraft now as it failed in 1981.

So, stay tuned for more information.

Dennis Wingo
ISEE-3 Project Co-Lead

Comparing Propulsion System Schematics

NASA Lists ISEE-3 Reboot as 2nd Largest Space Crowdfunded Effort

Emerging Space: The Evolving Landscape of 21st Century American Spaceflight, PDF, NASA Office of the Chief Technologist

"Crowdfunding offers space organizations avenues for fundraising outside traditional institutional methods. Sites like,, and allow space companies to tap the financial resources of private citizens interested in space exploration. In addition to providing crucial funds for the companies, crowd funding allows citizens to directly engage in space exploration by funding the projects that interest them. The number of these projects continues to grow. Table 4 provides a few prominent examples known at the time of printing. ... ISEE-3, a NASA probe launched in 1978, became the first spacecraft in deep space to be operated by a private-sector organization thanks in part to a crowd funding campaign."

Note: When you add ISEE-3 Reboot Project ($160K) and Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project ($62K) together (both conducted by the same team) over $222,000 has been raised via crowdfunding. Click on image to enlarge.

New NASA Citizen Science Website

NASA Launches New Citizen Science Website; Opens Challenge to Participate in Future Mars Missions

"NASA announced Saturday the opening of registration for its Mars Balance Mass Challenge and the launch of its new website, NASA Solve, at the World Maker Faire in New York. "NASA is committed to engaging the public, and specifically the maker community through innovative activities like the Mars Balance Mass Challenge," said NASA Chief Technologist David Miller. "And NASA Solve is a great way for members of the public, makers and other citizen scientists to see all NASA challenges and prizes in one location."

ISEE-3 Stuff at Arecibo

ISEE-3 Reboot Project at Maker Faire New York

Presentation slides that were not necessarily shown.

Citizen Science and Astronomy

Commons at the Intersection of Peer Production, Citizen Science, and Big Data: Galaxy Zoo

"The knowledge commons research framework is applied to a case of commons governance grounded in research in modern astronomy. The case, Galaxy Zoo, is a leading example of at least three different contemporary phenomena."

Ideas for Citizen Science in Astronomy

"The most productive citizen astronomy projects involve close collaboration between the professionals and amateurs involved, and occupy scientific niches not easily filled by great observatories or machine learning methods: citizen astronomers are most strongly motivated by being of service to science. In the coming years we expect participation and productivity in citizen astronomy to increase, as survey datasets get larger and citizen science platforms become more efficient. Opportunities include engaging the public in ever more advanced analyses, and facilitating citizen-led enquiry by designing professional user interfaces and analysis tools with citizens in mind."

Listening to ISEE-3 Solar Storm Data in Japan

We hope to have the 64 meter dish at Usuda in Japan do some ISEE-3 data recording today/tomorrow as the solar storm arrives.

ISEE-3 Reboot Project In The News 11 Sep 2014

Citizen Scientists Command NASA Satellite, VOA

"For the first time, NASA, the U.S. space agency, has handed over the reins of one its spacecraft to a group of ordinary people.  The International Sun Earth Explorer 3 was launched in 1978 to study space weather and collect data on the streams of particles flowing from the sun. Those particles, also known as solar wind, can damage satellites, interrupt radio signals and knock out electric systems that power our homes."

29 Years Ago Today: ISEE-3 Makes The First Comet Encounter

On 11 September 1985 ISEE-3 flew through the plasma trail of Comet Giacobini-Zinner and became the first spacecraft to encounter a comet. Photo: Kitt Peak, 1998.

Successful Space Project Crowdfunding

Space Crowdfunding: What's the Secret?, Winners and losers among the space start-ups, Air and Space

"I had guys clambering over the [radio antenna] dish in Arecibo [Puerto Rico], hanging hardware while people were still giving money, and people were saying, 'This is great!' " he says. "I was live-tweeting everything we did. Every geeky expression that happened in the control room I threw out there, and people were telling me they got in trouble for not going to work, or skipping class, sitting on the subway reading it on their phone." "The bulk of the people that give you money don't quite even understand exactly what you're going to do," says Cowing. But success comes "if you tell a compelling story, couch this in a way that there's adventure involved, but also a payback opportunity that people feel is important, that there's something to be learned."

Please Help Preserve This Historic Astronomical Data

Volunteers Needed to Preserve Astronomical History and Promote Discovery

"Digitizing the ~500,000 glass plate images covering the full sky will foster new scientific discoveries for the currently 'hot' field of studying variability of astronomical objects, or time domain astronomy, as we bring to light these long-hidden archives," says Harvard professor Josh Grindlay, the leader of the Digital Access to a Sky Century at Harvard (DASCH) project. The telescope logbooks record vital information associated with a 100-year-long effort to record images of the sky. By transcribing logbook text to put those historical observations in context, volunteers can help to unlock hidden discoveries."

ISEE-3 Status Report 5 September 2014

On September 4 we attempted to contact ISEE-3 from the Morehead State University dish. Our plan was to switch antennas and to change antenna orientation. We were unable to make contact with ISEE-3 although we can still hear it. The next attempt to contact and command ISEE-3 will be attempted next week.

ISEE-3 Reboot Project In The News 3 Sep 2014

The sun and McMoon's - Citizen group commandeers retired NASA satellite, Mountain View Voice

"The scrappy bunch of students, entrepreneurs and former NASA scientists who work out of "McMoon's" -- an abandoned McDonald's at Moffett Field -- are at it again. They're using crowdfunding to take control of an abandoned 1978 NASA satellite to study the weather on the sun, potentially predicting impacts on earth from climate change and dangerous solar storms. It's not the first time the group in the shuttered McDonald's has won public interest in a project. A few years ago the group made headlines for its efforts to digitize reams of film of high-resolution images of the moon taken during the Apollo missions in the 1960s."


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