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ASTEROIDS DEDICATED TO SPACE SHUTTLE COLUMBIA CREW



Submitted by Arthur - N1ORC


Donald Savage
Headquarters, Washington                      August 6, 2003
(Phone: 202/358-1547)

DC Agle 
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
(Phone: 818/393-9011)

RELEASE: 03-259

ASTEROIDS DEDICATED TO SPACE SHUTTLE COLUMBIA CREW

     The final crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia was 
memorialized in the cosmos as seven asteroids orbiting the 
sun between Mars and Jupiter were named in their honor today.

The Space Shuttle Columbia crew, Commander Rick Husband; 
pilot William McCool; Mission Specialists Michael Anderson, 
Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark; and Israeli 
payload specialist Ilan Ramon, will have celestial memorials, 
easily found from Earth.

The names, proposed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory 
(JPL), Pasadena, Calif., were recently approved by the 
International Astronomical Union. The official clearinghouse 
of asteroid data, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's 
Minor Planet Center, released the dedication today.

The seven asteroids were discovered at the Palomar 
Observatory near San Diego on the nights of July 19-21, 2001, 
by former JPL astronomer Eleanor F. Helin. She retired in 
July 2002. The seven asteroids range in diameter from five to 
seven kilometers (3.1 to 4.3 miles). The Palomar Observatory 
is owned and operated by the California Institute of 
Technology, Pasadena.

"Asteroids have been around for billions of years and will 
remain for billions more," said Dr. Raymond Bambery, 
Principal Investigator of JPL's Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking 
Project. "I like to think that in the years, decades and 
millennia ahead people will look to the heavens, locate these 
seven celestial sentinels and remember the sacrifice made by 
the Columbia astronauts," he said.

The 28th and final flight of Columbia (STS-107) was a 16-day 
mission dedicated to research in physical, life and space 
sciences. The seven astronauts aboard Columbia worked 24 
hours a day, in two alternating shifts, successfully 
conducting approximately 80 separate experiments. On February 
1, 2003, the Columbia and its crew were lost over the western 
United States during the spacecraft's re-entry into Earth's 
atmosphere.

Asteroids are rocky fragments left over from the formation of 
the solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. Most of the 
known asteroids orbit the sun in a belt between Mars and 
Jupiter. Scientists think there are probably millions of 
asteroids, ranging in size from less than one kilometer (.62 
mile) wide to hundreds of kilometers across.

More than 100,000 asteroids have been detected since the 
first was discovered back on January 1, 1801. Ceres, the 
first asteroid discovered, is also the largest at about 933 
kilometers (580 miles) in diameter.

The Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking System is managed by JPL for 
NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington. JPL is a division 
of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

For information about NASA on the Internet, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov

Information about JPL's Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking Program 
is available at:

http://neat.jpl.nasa.gov






-end-




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