- While NASA continues to learn about the state of its newly rediscovered IMAGE mission, the agency has said that the spacecraft proved to be a “discovery” machine and during nearly six years in operation, it provided robust research about the space around Earth.
- IMAGE was a discovery machine and a seminal mission that gave us a broader perspective on Earth’s environment and its ever-changing magnetosphere.
- On January 20, 2018, amateur astronomer Scott Tilley detected an unexpected signal coming from what he later postulated was NASA’s long-lost IMAGE satellite, which had not been in contact since 2005. On January 30, NASA confirmed that the signal was indeed from IMAGE.
- NASA launched IMAGE on March 25, 2000. It was the first mission to use neutral atom, photon and radio imaging techniques to produce large-scale measurements of the charged particles that exist in near-Earth space — namely in our magnetosphere, the magnetic fields that surround our planet, and its inner bubble of cold material called the plasmasphere.
- Designed as a two-year mission, IMAGE was approved twice to continue its operations.
- But when it failed to make contact on a routine pass on December 18, 2005, its tenure seemed to be cut short.Investigations into possible causes of failure suggested that the transmitter controller power source was tripped, possibly by an incoming high-energy cosmic ray or radiation belt particle.
- It was hypothesised that passing through a dramatic change in energy — such as what happens when a spacecraft experiences total darkness during an eclipse — could potentially reset it. But after a 2007 eclipse failed to induce a reboot, the mission was declared over.