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EROS Rendezvous: NEAR Mission Problems



Last night, the NEAR mission to rendezvous with the asteroid EROS
was scheduled to have a final 20 minute burn of the bi-propellant
motor to put the spacecraft into EROS orbit. The following note
appears on the NEAR project web site at URL 
       http://near.jhuapl.edu/ 

> NEAR Rendezvous Burn Aborted 
> 
>    The first rendezvous burn of the NEAR spacecraft's bipropellant 
>    engine, scheduled for Dec. 20, at 5 p.m. EST, was not completed 
>    as planned. Except for brief communication shortly after the 
>    scheduled 20-minute burn period, contact with the spacecraft 
>    has been lost. Mission Operations is now working to reestablish 
>    contact based on expectations that NEAR has entered safe mode 
>    after the burn was aborted by the spacecraft. 

The story I hear is that communications were abruptly lost after ~2 
seconds of the planned 20 minute motor burn. The last weekly status
report on 18 Dec gives no hints of any problems, as seen in 

   http://near.jhuapl.edu/Reports/WeeklyStatus/1998-12-18.txt 

Some of my colleagues here at GSFC who were involved when a similar 
incident killed the Mars mission a few years ago are expressing a 
strange feeling of deja vu.

73, Tom

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