In 2000, NASA launched a satellite called IMAGE, which is short for – Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration. After constantly working for five years, IMAGE has an unexplained failure that made it go offline.
The contact was lost on 18 December 2005. They tried to attempt reestablishing connection, but with no succes. NASA then declared the satellite lost.
13 years later, an amateur astronomer spotted it in high orbit. The good news was announced on 29 January 2018, when NASA stated:
“After an amateur astronomer recorded observations of a satellite in high Earth orbit on January 20, 2018, his initial research suggested it was the Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) — a NASA mission launched into orbit around Earth on March 25, 2000.”
NASA confirmed that the signals were indeed coming from the IMAGE spacecraft:
“Seeking to ascertain whether the signal indeed came from IMAGE, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, coordinated the use of five separate antennas to acquire radio frequency signals from the object.”
The US Agency Lost IMAGE Again
Eight months later, on 28 August, NASA admitted that the satellite once again evaded them and contact wasn’t possible. The John Hopkins Applied Physics Lab couldn’t lock onto the spacecraft to get telemetry signals.
NASA stated that the satellite has a problem with its signal and that the team has tried to change the spacecraft’s signal to troubleshoot “the source of the problem, without success so far.”
Rescue operations continued since February, but the team couldn’t get the satellite back online. Back in May, NASA considered that spinning might interfere with the IMAGE’s antenna, the “sputtering” in the signal pattern being proof from the last known spin period of the spacecraft.
IMAGE was the first ever satellite that studied the magnetosphere. Its job was to image the magnetosphere around the planet and study it to see the effects of solar wind activity.
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere