History-Making Navigators Win Aviation Week Award
The team thatmade history last year by navigating a spacecraft to a remarkably
safe landing on an asteroid received a laureate prize today from
Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine.
Dr. Bobby G. Williams of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.,
accepted the laureate's award for the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous
mission navigation team at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington,
D. C. The JPL navigation team included James K. Miller, Peter J.
Antreasian, Cliff E. Helfrich, William M. Owen, Jr., Eric Carranza,
Steven R. Chesley, Tseng-Chan Wang, Jon D. Giorgini, and John J. Bordi.
"Working on the project has been the high point of my career," said
Williams. "A maneuver like this had never been done before
- our team had to go back to school and rethink the way we do things."
On February 12, 2001, the spacecraft was coaxed into a soft landing on the surface
of asteroid Eros. "The feat of landing on a body with only
one-thousandth of Earth's gravity was all the more remarkable given
that the spacecraft was not designed to land at all, " said
James Asker, Washington bureau chief for Aviation Week & Space
Besides landing the spacecraft, the navigation team recorded many firsts which will
be recounted in the April 29, 2002 issue of Aviation Week &
Space Technology. The team not only navigated the first spacecraft
to come close to and orbit around an asteroid, but they also added
orbits that were not part of the original plan, once brushing by
the asteroid just 2.7 kilometers (about 1.7 miles) from the surface
so that scientists could get more data.
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory designed and built the spacecraft
and managed the NEAR mission
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