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Though they really don’t need it, a private effort to reactivate a 1970s spacecraft has now gotten NASA’s okay.
This piece of paper from NASA is a definite nice-to-have, given that “a private entity cannot legally salvage U.S. government property in space,” according to Mike Gold, a space law expert and attorney who works full time as the head of Washington operations for Bigelow Aerospace, the North Las Vegas, Nevada, company developing inflatable space habitats with technology licensed from NASA.
But practically speaking, it appears NASA could have done little to stop the ISEE-3 Reboot project from moving ahead with its plan to take over the old spacecraft — an Earth-Sun observatory that launched to the gravitationally stable Earth-Sun Lagrange point 1 in 1978 and is now swinging back toward the home planet in the heliocentric orbit NASA nudged it into in 1982 to chase comets.
What is really more important is that their effort to raise the necessary private funds for this project has largely succeeded.