From: RSchatte@aol.com Date: Wed, 19 Nov 1997 14:18:27 -0500 (EST) Fwd Date: Thu, 20 Nov 1997 08:22:27 -0500 Subject: NASA Craft To Study Asteroid, Mars --------------------- Forwarded message: Subj: NASA Craft To Study Asteroid, Mars Date: 97-11-19 10:07:39 EST From: AOL News .c The Associated Press By JANE E. ALLEN PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Slowly accelerating through space with a solar-powered engine, NASA's $141 million Deep Space 1 spacecraft will test a dozen new technologies for future missions. DS1, the first in NASA's New Millennium series, is set for launch next July on a two-year mission. The 5-foot-high workhorse will cruise past an asteroid, Mars and a comet, doing scientific work with several compact, lightweight and highly efficient new instruments. Seven members of the science team held a briefing Tuesday to discuss the spacecraft's advanced technologies, including a solar electric propulsion system. In January 1999, the spacecraft will pass within 5 miles of an asteroid named for Christa McAuliffe, the New Hampshire teacher killed by the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. It will snap pictures, analyze the asteroid's surface composition and brightness, and monitor effects of the solar wind. In April 2000, DS1 will pass by Mars, conducting tests while it uses the planet for a gravity assist maneuver to fling it on a path toward the comet West-Kohoutek-Ikemura. Once it catches up with the comet, it will study its solid nucleus and surrounding cloud of gas and dust. The mission also offers ``a long-overdue opportunity to flight-test ion propulsion,'' said Joseph Wang, who runs the propulsion group at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. An array of 720 lenses will focus sunlight on solar panels to produce electricity to power the ion propulsion engine. Inside the engine, atoms of xenon gas are given positive charges, then exposed to a negative electrical field that attracts and shoots them out the back of the spacecraft. The result is a gradual buildup of speed over many months. The propulsion method is 10 times more efficient than burning fuel, ``but the thrust is extremely gentle,'' said Marc D. Rayman, the project's chief mission engineer at JPL. He compared the engine's thrust to the weight of a piece of paper in your hand. AP-NY-11-19-97 0940EST Copyright 1997 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without prior written authority of The Associated Press.
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