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NASA Space The Almighty Buck Technology

Group Wants To Recover 36-Year-Old Historic Spacecraft From Deep Space 141

Posted by samzenpus
from the bring-it-home dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A band of space hackers and engineers are trying to do something never done before — recover a 36 year old NASA spacecraft from the grips of deep space and time. With old NASA documents and Rockethub crowdfunding, a team led by Dennis Wingo and Keith Cowing is attempting to steer ISEE-3, later rechristened ICE, the International Cometary Explorer, back into an Earth orbit and return it to scientific operations. Dennis says, 'ISEE-3 can become a great teaching tool for future engineers and scientists helping with design and travel to Mars'. Only 40 days remain before the spacecraft will be out of range for recovery. A radio telescope is available, propulsion designs are in hand and the team is hoping for public support to provide the small amount needed to accomplish a very unique milestone in space exploration."
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Group Wants To Recover 36-Year-Old Historic Spacecraft From Deep Space

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  • Oblig. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Cryacin (657549) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @10:07PM (#46838007)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I was thinking of just that xkcd when I read TFS. Did not realize till now that it was xkcd #1337.
    • by rbf (2305)
      Best on-topic post ever!
    • by Agent0013 (828350)

      I think it's kind of funny how the slashdot community uses xkcd comics pretty regularly by posting just the link. It always reminds me of the joke where everyone just shouts out the number of the joke and the rest of the group laughs. I have pasted the joke below for those who have not heard it before.

      In a bar in a remote Alaskan town, a newcomer hears people yell out numbers (#23!, #56, etc.) and then everyone laughs. He asks the guy next to him what's going on, and he says the jokes have been told so many times, people just yell out their numbers instead of retelling them. So he yells out #27! but nobody laughs. The guy next to him says, "Some people can tell a joke, and some people can't."

  • kain't y'all spel wurth spit?
  • So, do they have a large insurance policy? If the re-orbit goes wrong and it smashes into other satellites or space debris, who is liable?

    • Re:Satellite smash (Score:5, Informative)

      by iroll (717924) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @11:17PM (#46838293) Homepage

      Liability insurance would be cheaper than sending you to a community college class about statistics and probability.

    • Re:Satellite smash (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 25, 2014 @01:50AM (#46838741)

      Hi, this is Dennis Wingo, co-project lead for this effort.

      There is no need for insurance as the probability of collision is extremely small, far less than for satellites in any other orbit. At no time is this orbit coming even as close as geosynchronous orbit.

      • A man who doesn't understand insurance. Amusing.
        • So maybe you snarky bastards could explain where we're going wrong instead of just heckling us?

          • Let's say you buy a computer, and you buy insurance in case that computer burns out. Is this a good decision?

            How about if you buy 10,000 computers for a company, and you buy insurance in case those burn out. Is that a good decision?

            In the first case, yes. You have one computer. You are exposed to either the marginal cost of a computer some percentage of the time OR slightly more than that percentage of the marginal cost of the computer 100% of the time. Let's say 1 in 100 computers burns out in a sh

            • Okay, thanks for the explanation.

              Is anybody likely to sell you a $20 insurance policy if all those numbers we're pulling out of our asses are accurate, though.

              Now I'm just trying to figure out whether you were replying to the article itself or the person you actually replied to, and being sarcastic or not. Because if you're replying to the AC and being straight, it sounds like you're agreeing with the guy you're calling an idiot.

              There is no need for insurance as the probability of collision is extremely small

              A man who doesn't understand insurance. [...] Purchasing liability insurance with parameters as described above is a bad decision--even if you're unlucky, not purchasing it is usually a good decision

              —><— [wikipedia.org]

              • The parameters described were purchasing insurance for a bulk event that has a cost. Insurance increases the cost by the probability of a risk multiplied by the cost of the risk, plus overhead.

                These people are talking about not purchasing liability insurance for a one-off. A one-off is exactly the correct time to purchase insurance: You represent a small fraction of the risk pool, and so you derive the greatest benefit for the smallest cost. As you begin to represent a larger portion of the risk pool

                • Oh, you were talking about the deorbiting happening repeatedly. That was kind of intentionally misrepresenting the issue as we were only talking about doing it once in the first place, but whatever.

                  It's rather unfortunate though that as (presumably) the risk of incident approaches 1, so also does the value of purposely not guarding against it increase.

                  • It's not really unfortunate for those taking the risk many times; it is marginally unfortunate for one-offs, but this is less of an issue than it seems.

                    Many, many individuals purchase computers, watches, or houses. They purchase cars. They purchase all manner of things which they may insure. At the same time, we have companies with fleets of antiques, rental units, and automobiles. This gives us a large and robust risk leveling base.

                    It is unfortunate that law requires liability insurance for vehicl

                    • Unfortunate for any people who are, to extend the analogy, hit by a flaming satellite when we start deorbiting them by the thousands and decide it's no longer worth insuring; not unfortunate for the company not seeking the insurance, since we've already established that they will in fact save money.

                    • The outcome for those impacted by another's liability is the same: the other party pays. It's a difference in whether they pay by insurance claim or by their own risk funds.

                • by mark_reh (2015546)

                  An interesting idea, but it seems to be the opposite case for doctors purchasing malpractice insurance. They do what they do many thousands of times with each instance being a risk for a future lawsuit. By your logic, they should not purchase malpractice insurance. I don't know what the stats are for career long comparison of cost of insurance vs cost of settling with disgruntled patients, but I'd bet it's actually cheaper to self insure. The problem is you may not be able to afford to do that until sev

                  • Doctors are sued constantly, and the hospital may require them to have malpractice insurance as a way to redirect lawsuits (suing a doctor could put hospital at liability, unless the doctor is independently insured--legal bullshit). In such cases, it's essentially a continuous risk and the risk is in variation of severity.

                    The worst possible outcome is your insurer going bankrupt. Look into operational risk management, you'll understand eventually.

            • This project is a prime candidate for liability insurance. Purchasing liability insurance is a good decision, even if nothing bad happens. Purchasing liability insurance with parameters as described above is a bad decision--even if you're unlucky, not purchasing it is usually a good decision (unless risk appetite is extremely low).

              You're forgetting that insurance comes out of operations budget which is a given known cost ahead of time and replacing above computers would come out of Capital Budget which is planned out a year in advance, not a given, and hard to get. Thus it's a good plan to get the insurance all the time because replacing the failed equipment will be a quicker, easier given rather than a political nightmare which might cost you your job.

              • We have Chief Risk Officers and Chief Financial Officers for a reason. They can come to immediate agreement about why we should or should not have insurance on a case-by-case basis.
    • by JWSmythe (446288)

      Check their video. It sounded like they wanted to put it in orbit around the Earth. Their video shows it parking out around SEL1, out where ACE is on the 16th year of it's 5 year gig.

      So, they don't want to recover it. They just want to park it an awful long way from home. I misread TFS, and was trying to figure out how they'd design, build, and launch a recovery vehicle in 40 days. That would have been really cool though.

  • by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @10:56PM (#46838205)

    From TFA: "If successful ISEE-3 will spend its retirement as a platform for citizen science, with smartphone apps—and a twitter feed"

    Perhaps it would be better to let it drift off into space and die with some dignity after all.

  • In for $18 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quinn_Inuit (760445) <Quinn_Inuit@ y a hoo.com> on Thursday April 24, 2014 @11:20PM (#46838301)
    Let's bring this baby to life!
    • by bigpat (158134)
      The requested $125k [rockethub.com] is about what it would cost to build and launch a cubesat, but a cubesat would only be in orbit for a couple months at most. So this is a very good return on investment if they can get some longer term use out of it.
  • by NewtonsLaw (409638) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @11:33PM (#46838339)

    "a very unique milestone in space exploration"

    WTF?

    "unique" is not a relative adjective. There are no degrees of "unique". Something is either unique or it's not.

    Aaargh!

    That's why there are no such words as uniquer or uniquest

    </rant>

    • by hawguy (1600213) on Friday April 25, 2014 @12:02AM (#46838427)

      "a very unique milestone in space exploration"

      WTF?

      "unique" is not a relative adjective. There are no degrees of "unique". Something is either unique or it's not.

      Aaargh!

      That's why there are no such words as uniquer or uniquest

      </rant>

      Funny thing about English - many words have more than one meaning:

      http://www.merriam-webster.com... [merriam-webster.com]

      unique adjective \yu-nk\

      ...

      3: unusual <a very unique ball-point pen> <we were fairly unique, the sixty of us, in that there wasn't one good mixer in the bunch — J. D. Salinger>

      Usage Discussion of UNIQUE

      Many commentators have objected to the comparison or modification (as by somewhat or very) of unique, often asserting that a thing is either unique or it is not. Objections are based chiefly on the assumption that unique has but a single absolute sense, an assumption contradicted by information readily available in a dictionary....

      • but the "un" in unique comes from the latin unus, which means one. you can't be relatively unique any more than you can be relatively dead.

        • by hawguy (1600213)

          but the "un" in unique comes from the latin unus, which means one. you can't be relatively unique any more than you can be relatively dead.

          Perhaps if we were in Ancient Rome, you might have a point. However, while many words in English have their origins in Latin, their modern meanings have deviated from the original Latin roots.

        • And that is why no-one has multiple unicycles.
      • Or maybe we could just use the meaning that the damn word was intended for in the first place! If I meant "unusual," I'd just say "unusual!"

        But let's continue muddying up the language until everyone can only communicate using the 200 most common words. Then we can have more fun articles like that time we spent 90% of the comments section arguing about abbreviating "Supreme Court of the United States" to "Supremes." We all want that, right?

        • by hawguy (1600213)

          Or maybe we could just use the meaning that the damn word was intended for in the first place! If I meant "unusual," I'd just say "unusual!"

          But let's continue muddying up the language until everyone can only communicate using the 200 most common words. Then we can have more fun articles like that time we spent 90% of the comments section arguing about abbreviating "Supreme Court of the United States" to "Supremes." We all want that, right?

          Ahh, so you're on a crusade to stop the evolution of the English language.

          Alack [phrontistery.info], I fear your wood gardyloo shan't end in a fain result, meseems evolution is too puissant and your quest will end in wanion.

    • An ace may be unique in your poker hand, but it isn't unique in the deck. Thus it is more unique in your hand than in the deck. If my hand is the two of hearts, the three, queen, and king of diamonds and the ace of spades, each card is unique, but the two of hearts is more unique than the king of diamonds because there are other diamonds but no other hearts. The ace of spades is the uniquest, because not only are there no other cards of that rank and suit, there are also no other cards of that color.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      "infinity" is not a relative adjective. There are no degrees of "infinity". Something is either infinite or it's not.

      Aaargh!

      That's why there are no such words as infiniter or infinitest

      Or maybe there can be degrees of uniqueness.

      • by sconeu (64226) on Friday April 25, 2014 @02:05AM (#46838783) Homepage Journal

        There are no degrees of "infinity". Something is either infinite or it's not.

        Aleph-null and Aleph-one would like a word with you.

        • Understandable whoosh.

        • by Ecuador (740021)
          His point is that there is no infiniter infinitest, but there ARE degrees of infinity. If you read it again in relation to the post it responds to you will get it.
        • by Prien715 (251944)

          Another way to think about infinity (discretely).

          How many round numbers above 0 are there? Well, 1,2,3,4,...10000000...infinity right? Let's call that group "natural numbers".

          How many odd numbers are there above 0? Also infinity. Let's call that group "positive odds".

          While both numbers are infinite, I can say with reasonable precision that there are twice as many natural numbers as there are positive odd numbers and that every positive odd number is also a natural number.

          If you agree to that proposition

          • by Rich0 (548339)

            While both numbers are infinite, I can say with reasonable precision that there are twice as many natural numbers as there are positive odd numbers and that every positive odd number is also a natural number.

            I would disagree. There are exactly the same number of natural numbers as there are positive odd numbers.

            For each natural number n there is exactly one positive odd number n*2-1. This pairing accounts for every natural number once, and for every odd number once. Thus, there must be the same number of them.

            Now, you can argue that there are more real numbers than natural numbers, because it is not possible to account for them in this way. You can also argue that there are the same number of rational numbe

    • by JWSmythe (446288)

      uniquilessnessishis?

      You know I couldn't resist after a rant like that. :)

    • by sFurbo (1361249)
      That view makes the word "unique" close to meaningless.
      Disregarding objects where quantum mechanics are the dominant theory, everything is unique. No two LEGO bricks are completely identical at the atomic level, so they are all at least a little unique. If there are no degrees of unique, they are all unique, and as unique as this spacecraft, or the moon, or the George Washington.
      So it merely becomes a word for "a thing that we can distinguish from other things given enough effort", which is another way to
    • There are degrees of uniqueness. Try developing an algorithm that sorts data on uniqueness and you will realize this.

    • Dialog (close to verbatim) from TBBT.

      Stuart: You couldn't be more wrong.

      Sheldon: [typical Sheldon-ish pedantic lecture]

      Stuart: It's wrong to say a tomato is a vegetable. It's more wrong to say it's a suspension bridge.

      It's not just a sitcom, it's also a source of parables.

    • by Dabido (802599)
      That's the uniquest post I've read this week. I feel embiggened by the cromulensity of it all.
  • *Beep* HELIUM DETECTED *Beep* COSMIC RAY *Beep* MORE HELIUM *Beep* AIR'S KINDA THIN UP HERE *Beep* FOR GOD'S SAKE GUYS LET ME DIE *Beep*
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Vulture has Landed!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvage_1

    • God I loved that show! I found a torrent of the movie a few years ago, but I have never been able to find the series.
      Hell, at this point I would even pay for it.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    1) You don't need a space hacker for this, you need a financial hacker.
    2) Operating any new spacecraft with brand spanking new procedures, trained personnel and lots of rehearsals is a damn pain.
    3) Operating any old spacecraft that was designed, built and operated by others, is three times as much trouble as (2) when it is possible at all.
    4) The only thing engineers will learn from this is points 1, 2 and 3. I'm telling them this for free.

    • by rev0lt (1950662)
      1) You're a short-sighted moron, but that we already knew;
      2) If crowdfunding of these kind of projects work, we'll see many more in the future - even if it fails its goal;
      3) Learning engineering tricks form a viable, proven piece of tech that went where no man has been before is priceless. You can simulate whatever you want, but in the end I'll take a proven piece of gear to a simulation any day;
      4) Your opinion's worth is way inflated. Even for free, its still overpriced.
  • Let the satellite hijacking begin.
  • It's a "make vs. buy" decision. The cheaper thing is to release it open source and wait for someone in Guangdong to make a knock off and buy in online for $2M.

Make sure your code does nothing gracefully.

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