Civilians steer NASA satellite from an old McDonald's

Somewhere in Mountain View, a group of civilians take over the ISEE-3 satellite using old radio parts bought on eBay. Today, they're screening a live lunar flyby.

isee.png
The people's satellite. A Spacecraft For All screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I hadn't been aware that, if you ask NASA nicely, you'll be allowed to take the controls of a satellite floating in outer space.

Clearly, I need to get out more, as this is what a group of very interested civilians are doing from their headquarters in a McDonald's.

Let's be fair, it's an old McDonald's. It doesn't serve burgers anymore. Indeed, as Betabeat reports, it's now referred to as McMoon's.

From here, Keith Cowing, a former NASA employee who hasn't lost his enthusiasm for space, huddles with his team to re-create the joy of satellites gone by.

The ISEE-3 is a satellite that's seen better days. It was pensioned off a while ago, but it's still floating up there. So Cowing and his band of merry men asked NASA if they had any objection to resuscitating an old great.

NASA, perhaps surprised at such an odd request, reportedly asked if Cowing needed help. No, not that sort of help. Practical help to achieve his dream. This led to Cowing's team taking over a disused McDonald's, because of its proximity to the Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.

And so today, at 10.30 a.m. PT, the McMoonies will be hosting a live lunar flyby on a Web site built with help from Google. The site is a beautiful presentation of the history of the satellite and the team's efforts in bringing it back to life.

You can even follow ISEE-3's progress live and get some small sense of what it feels like to be in McMission Control.

Because ISEE-3 was built with solid, simple parts, the McMoonies bought radio parts on eBay and got hold of an old flat-screen TV to steer its dream.

Now, they are at the helm of an old satellite that once measured the weather up there.

They raised $160,000 through crowdfunding, and the crowd can today witness the result of its investment.

Moreover, this is as open-source a project as you can find. "We're allowing anybody who is interested and has a computer to be able to do something with the data," Cowing told Betabeat.

The team calls it "A Spacecraft For All."

How wonderful to be able to participate in such an enterprising edifying experience. Not something you always find at a McDonald's. Even an old one.

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Show Comments Hide Comments
Latest Galleries from CNET
15 crazy old phones from a Korean museum (pictures)
10 gloriously geeky highlights from 2014 (pictures)
2015.5 Volvo XC60: updated tech, understated design
Busted! CNET readers show us their broken devices (pictures)
Take a closer look at the BlackBerry Classic (pictures)