- "1337", this comic's number, redirects here. For the 2007 storyline of the same name, starting with comic 341, see Category:1337.
Title text: HACK THE STARS
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This comic is a mash-up of the project to re-position the ISEE-3/ICE probe, and the movie Hackers. The first row (four panels) explain the history of the probe, and the true story about how the probe was coming back into signal range and seemed capable of being controlled. NASA declined to attempt to regain control of the probe, but a group of enthusiasts assembled the equipment and attempted to re-purpose the probe.
The following two rows (eight panels) set up a fictional scenario the enthusiasts have been locked out of the system, the probe is being controlled by someone else, and the message "Mess with the best, die like the rest" is communicated from the probe. This is a catch phrase of the protagonist, Crash, from the movie Hackers.
The final row is a reference to the ending of the movie, where Crash romances Burn, his romantic interest, in a rooftop pool. In the movie, while Crash and Burn swim in a rooftop pool, several buildings light up with the words "CRASH AND BURN". This is their friends' latest hack, and an attempt to provide romance for the new couple. In the comic the transmitter being used to communicate with ISEE-3 was hacked to by Burn to burn up over Crash and Burn swimming in the pool providing a "shooting star" for romantic effect. Since the movie predates the shutdown-signal (1997), the characters should possess the skills to understand the probe and hack the transmitter.
This is comic number 1337, which means elite (and in this context possibly elite hacking) in leetspeak. Leetspeak (itself often referred to as "1337") is a form of symbolic writing often associated with hacker subculture that substitutes various numbers and ASCII symbols for letters. To get 1337, the word elite is shortened/stylized to "leet" with the letters L, E, E, and T turned into the numbers 1, 3, 3, and 7.
The title text "Hack the stars" is also an allusion to the movie Hackers where the Phrase "Hack the Planet!" is used on multiple occasions.
- [Panel 1 shows an image of the ISEE-3/ICE spacecraft]
- Narration: The ISEE-3/ICE probe was launched in 1978. Its mission ended in 1997 and it was sent a shutdown signal.
- Narration: In 2008, we learned-to our surprise-that the probe didn't shut down. It's still running and it has plenty of fuel. ...and in 2014, its orbit brings it near earth.
- [Panel 3 shows Megan and Ponytail talking to each other.]
- Megan: We could send it on a new mission... Except we no longer have the equipment to send commands to it.
- Ponytail: Can't we...
- Megan: NASA won't rebuild it. "Too Expensive"
- Ponytail: Seriously?
- Megan: I know, right? So the Internet found the specs and we went to work.
- [Panel 5 shows Megan and Ponytail have walking into an area where a girl and Cueball both are sitting at desks looking at laptops.]
- Narration: We've convinced them to give us time on the Madrid DSN transmitter and hacked the maser to support the uplink. And today's the big day.
- Cueball: Transmitting... We have a signal! We have control!
- Megan: OK, transmit the new comet rendezvous maneuver sequen-
- [Cueball, off panel]: What the hell?
- Megan: What?
- Cueball: My console went dead!
- Girl: Mine too!
- Megan: What's happening?!
- Cueball: There's a new signal going out over the transmitter!
- [Megan, off panel]: A bug?
- Cueball: Someone else is in the system!
- Girl: Kill the connection!
- [Cueball, off panel]: I can't find it!
- Girl: They're firing the probe's engines!
- [Cueball, off panel]: NO!
- [Megan, off panel]: Who's doing this?? Stop them!
- [Girl, off panel]: I'm trying!
- Cueball, pointing to his screen: Look! My screen!
- [Text, on Cueball's laptop screen]: M-E-S-S-W-I-T-H-T-H-E-B-E-S-T D-I-E-L-I-K-E-T-H-E-R-E-S-T
- [Panel 13 shows two people in a pool at night.]
- [Panel 14 zooms out to reveal the pool is on top of a skyscraper in a vertically developed, downtown setting.]
- Burn: Crash?
- Crash: Yeah, Burn?
- Burn: Make a wish.
- [Panel 16 shows the spacecraft streaking across the sky, indistinguishable from a meteoroid.]
- There are several pools in the movie as well. There is a subplot involving a mythical pool on the roof of the high school where several of the characters are students. Additionally, a scene in the movie Hackers ending shows Crash and Burn swimming in a rooftop pool, while several buildings light up with the words "CRASH AND BURN", the result of their friends' latest hack. This scene is similar to the last four panels of the comic.
- The number of the comic is also significant, in that 1337 is a common numeric form of leet, again referring to hackers.
Background for ISEE-3/ICE
The ISEE-3/ICE probe was launched in August 12, 1978 and tasked to study Earth's magnetic field and the solar wind. After completing its original mission the probe was repurposed on June 10, 1982 to study the interaction between the solar wind and a cometary atmosphere. By flying through the comet Giacobini-Zinner's tail, it became the first probe to do so. This put ISEE-3 in a heliocentric orbit. Its trajectory will bring it close to Earth on August 2014.
The Deep Space Network (DSN) detected the probe again in 2008 because NASA mistakenly left its transmitters on. However, the probe was only transmitting the carrier signal at that time. A status check of the spacecraft has revealed that many of its instruments are still working and that it contains plenty of fuel.
It was reported that the hardware to communicate with ISEE-3/ICE had been decommissioned. The Madrid DSS complex still has the special filter required to communicate with the ICE satellite, but because of frequency conflicts S-band uplink is not supported.
On March 1st and 2nd, 2014 radio amateurs were able to detect the beacon signal from the retired NASA deep space probe ICE (International Cometary Explorer) using the 20m radio telescope at the Bochum Observatory (Germany).
Updates for ISEE-3/ICE
After this comic was published, it was established that an 18-meter satellite dish at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory does still have the right hardware.
- April 4th 2014: Volunteers started a crowdfunding project on RocketHub to contact the probe and put it back into a halo orbit orbit around Lagrangian point L1."ISEE-3 reboot"
- May 23, 2014: First contact to the probe was established.
- May 29, 2014: NASA gave them approval to try to achieve contact.
- May 30, 2014: The project, led by Dennis Wingo and Keith Cowing, had taken control of the spacecraft.
- July 2, 2014: The reboot project successfully fired the thrusters for the first time since 1987. The engines on ISEE-3 performed a successful spin-up burn. The spin rate was changed to 19.76 rpm which is inside of the original mission specifications at 19.75 +/- 0.2 rpm.
Further attempts to change the trajectory into an earth bound orbit did fail. Despite the effort from experts and amateurs via the internet it was determined that the spacecraft had run out of nitrogen pressurant.
Since the device was still communicating, and many of the instruments were still working, the ISEE-3 was intended to be used for the first citizen science, crowd funded, crowd sourced, interplanetary space science mission.
See Space College: ISEE-3 Reboot Project Archives for ongoing coverage of this amazing project.
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