Monday, September 20, 2010

Thawing out the story of ICE

Today's Space Review presents an good article on the ICE spacecraft's close encounter with the comet Giacobini-Zinner. ICE, which was formerly known as ISEE-3 (International Sun-Earth Explorer), was one of the first, if not the first, recycled/repurposed spacecraft (at least that I am aware of).  In the title of this post, I used the word 'thawing' because ISEE-3 was launched in 1978, it's mission was over in 1981, and ICE was 'born' in 1982.  Although ICE's first maneuver occurred  in 1982, the concept was reportedly conceived by a team led by GSFC's Dr. Bob.Farquhar back in the 1970's. It took 18 months for ICE to peform the dance shown below. After passing the comet in 1985, it continued into a wider orbit around the sun.  It's still alive and should return to our vicinity in 2014.  I wonder if it will be healthy enough, and if there will be enough science budget, to use it again? That would be really cool!

You can see my previous posts on ICE/ISEE-3 here.