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Lost & Found Spacecraft

February 8, 2018

An amateur radio operator tracks down a lost spacecraft.


The IMAGE spacecraft undergoing launch preparations in early 2000. NASA

The IMAGE spacecraft undergoing launch preparations in early 2000. (NASA)


A citizen scientist finds a lost satellite. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Last month, ham radio operator Scott Tilley unexpectedly picked up radio signals from space and identified the source as IMAGE — a NASA satellite that malfunctioned and disappeared over twelve years ago. NASA scientist Thomas Moore, at the Goddard Space Flight Center, says that in the intervening years, the plucky spacecraft apparently managed to reboot itself.

THOMAS MOORE (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center):

It re-started itself so everyone is rummaging for their old files used to command and operate the spacecraft.


IMAGE studies earth’s magnetosphere– that’s the plasma and other charged material surrounding the planet that causes the aurora and sometimes disrupts our electrical grid. Moore says that if the satellite passes a checkup, it should be ready to go back to work after its twelve year vacation. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon