It’s hard to believe that a missing satellite can be rediscovered after missing for more than 12 years. Such were the claims that an amateur astronomer’s made, adding that he made contact with the space agency’s image satellite.
The claims have been confirmed by NASA, which revealed that it has successfully gathered data from the satellite Tuesday afternoon, Jan.30 from its Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Maryland. Reports indicate that the IMAGE spacecraft launched back in March 2000 and was "unexpectedly lost" on Dec. 18, 2005.
The U.S. space agency reports it has been able to read some "basic housekeeping data" from IMAGE, which suggests its "main control system is operational."
"Scientists and engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will continue to try to analyze the data from the spacecraft to learn more about the state of the spacecraft," the space agency says in the release.
"This process will take a week or two to complete as it requires attempting to adapt old software and databases of information to more modern systems."
A statement was made by the astronomer, Scott Tilley, to the Science Magazine revealing that he was looking for a classified U.S. satellite, but instead picked up the one labeled "2000-017A" which belongs to NASA's long-lost $150 million mission's spacecraft.
According to NASA, it received a signal ID of 166, which is the ID for IMAGE. The IMAGE spacecraft was originally launched to study the magnetosphere, which is the invisible magnetic field that surrounds the Earth. Science reports the mission was considered a success by NASA before it went missing.
"IMAGE was designed to image Earth's magnetosphere and produce the first comprehensive global images of the plasma populations in this region," NASA reports in the release.
"After successfully completing and extending its initial two-year mission in 2002, the satellite unexpectedly failed to make contact on a routine pass on Dec. 18, 2005. After a 2007 eclipse failed to induce a reboot, the mission was declared over."
NASA’s official report indicates that the failure came from unexpected error within the power system. As a result, IMAGE couldn’t "establish a routine communication" with the Deep Space Network.