Discovery Highlights from World Space Congress
Leonard David from space.com filed these reports regarding CONTOUR and NEAR:
An internal team from the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) will soon turn over its findings to a NASA troubleshooting team looking into what went wrong with the Comet Nucleus Tour (CONTOUR) mission. The
spacecraft was lost to space on August 15, shortly after firing its STAR 30BP solid-propellant rocket motor in order to depart low Earth orbit. That firing was known to have under-performed. Insiders at the
World Space Congress say that, as yet, "no smoking gun" has been found regarding why the spacecraft has failed to respond to Earth commands. However, APL investigators have made some headway into possible
reasons the CONTOUR mission went astray.
NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft sitting atop asteroid Eros is getting a wake-up call from Earth in December. Whether it responds is another matter. After circling the space rock for
almost a full year, the NASA probe landed on Eros on February 12, 2001. Carrying out extra science duties directly on the surface, NEAR was turned off on February 28, its mission deemed fully successful. Now
a signal is to be transmitted to the spacecraft to see if it responds. Using one of the large Deep Space Network radio dishes, one sweep of Eros is planned on December 13. While space engineers attending the
World Space Congress admit chances are slim of getting a peep out of NEAR, a response would show how robust spacecraft electronics could be in surviving deep freeze temperatures.
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