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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 

> 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 


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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