NASA’s graduates may attempt to talk to a satellite returning to earth’s orbit for the first time since its launch in 1971:

James Green is now director of the planetary science division at NASA headquarters. When he was in his 30s, he set up a state-of-the-art computer network to help researchers quickly get their data during the spacecraft’s comet mission. He recently sat in his office, reviewing a list of the spacecraft’s science instruments and the researchers who were in charge of them, way back when.

“Keith Ogilvie’s here, I’m sure he’s retired. … Smith is retired. … Jean-Louis Steinberg, I believe he’s retired,” says Green, running down the list. “Jack Gosling has passed away. … Bonnard Teegarden — he’s retired many years ago.”

Another problem is that some of the old equipment needed to talk to the spacecraft is just … gone. NASA got rid of it when systems were modernized, says Green, who explains that “deep space communication has changed radically over the last 25 years.”

But it looks like an 18-meter satellite dish at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory still has the right hardware.

“It’s not often that something that you’ve sent off supposedly into oblivion sort of comes back to you,” says (Daniel Baker, , director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado), who worked with data from ISEE-3 when he was younger. “It really, to me, is a fascinating thing that we can even dream of reassembling the puzzle here and put it back the way, sort of, it was…

Read more…and about how Robert Farquhar stole the satellite back in 1983…