Today, A Spacecraft From 1978 Took Our Lunch Money

Illustration for article titled Today, A Spacecraft From 1978 Took Our Lunch Money

A spacecraft from 1978 resurfaced, today — and then it took our lunch money. This is not a story about time travel, though. It's a story about the internet, money, space, and, of course, lunch. And it's all true.


The story begins in 1978, when we launched a probe deep into space. Almost twenty years later, that probe was supposed to shut down.

But it didn't.

It kept right on going and, this summer, it comes back into Earth's range, ready to communicate with us again. There's just one problem: The old tech that was built to talk with the probe had been replaced years ago. We can't talk to the spacecraft unless we rebuild that gear, and rebuilding it is outside of NASA's budget.

So, a group of engineers, calling themselves the ISEE-3 Reboot Project, is hoping to raise the money, re-build the tech privately, and then send the probe out on one last mission.

Within 2 hours of this post, with a link to donate, appearing on io9's front page, the number of donors had jumped from 24 donors at $2,000 to 94 donors at $5,000, including from this commenter who chose space over lunch:


I didn't buy a lunch today so those science bullies got my lunch money. Hopefully it helps.

Of course, there's still plenty of budgetary and technical hurdles to jump over. We don't yet know just how the story will end or what kind of future to expect for this space probe from the past. Like I said before, this isn't a story about time travel.

This is a story about timelines and how, somewhere in the middle, a 35-year-old space probe that's fallen out of touch with the people who made it just might cross paths with us, and our lunches, one more time.


Top Image via ISEE-3 Reboot Project


*raises hand*

I have a sincere question: how do we know it's still working if it hasn't yet arrived within range for communications?