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Communicating with a zombie satellite

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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An illustration of the International Sun-Earth Explorer-3, which was launched in 1978 (Credit NASA)

The International Sun-Earth Explorer-3 (ISEE-3) was launched by NASA in 1978. It orbited the sun, between the sun and Earth, where it was able to observe and report solar wind before it reached Earth. In 1997, NASA shut the spacecraft down, leaving it in space, awaiting its next command. Two years after that, NASA upgraded the Deep Space Network, discarding all transmitters that could communicate with ISEE-3. Furthermore, no one has a complete operational manual. And so, for nearly 20 years, the zombie spaceship had no communication with Earth.

After the Deep Space Network picked up a carrier frequency from ISEE-3 in 2008, NASA considered reviving contact when it passes by the moon in August 2014, but concluded that the effort and money would not be worth it. Fans of the zombie spacecraft felt otherwise, and began raising money to bring it home.  To date, almost $160,000 has been raised by nearly 2,240 donors.

Here’s my question: once we bring the zombie spacecraft home, how will we talk to it?

Think about the ways technology has changed since 1978.  Can you imagine using contemporary devices to operate your 36-year-old television?  The craft was designed to use software that has been obsolete for decades. The best way to speak to it would be to enlist  the engineer who designed it.  He would be able to communicate with his creation in a way today’s technology could not.

Is there a person in your life with whom you are struggling to relate? Know that the Lord made everyone you know. His omniscience enables him to understand every person’s thoughts and motivations. He can speak to them in a way you cannot. So praying for your spouse or child or parent or colleague or adversary is in their best interest and yours.

Your Maker also knows your heart better than you do. He can lead your next decision and help you know what is in his will and for your good. But he can speak only to those who will listen.

Are you floating in spiritual space, or are you yielded to the commands of your Master today?