When aerospace engineers launch a satellite, they don’t expect it to last forever. So when the NASA orbiter known as IMAGE disappeared from view after five years in orbit, few were alarmed.
What did stun the field came last January, when an amateur satellite watcher spotted IMAGE in the skies again after a dozen years — and realized that it was still trying to talk to Earth.
“I’ve been in this field since the late 1980s, and it almost never happens that a lost spacecraft is found again, especially after so long,” said Jeffrey J.E. Hayes, program executive for missions at NASA headquarters in Washington. “IMAGE is this zombie that came back to life.”