Fwd = NEAR Shoemaker Moving In for a Better Look at Eros
- Forwarded by: fwestra@...
Originally from: baalke@...
Original Subject: NEAR Shoemaker Moving In for a Better Look at Eros
Original Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2000 14:00:07 -0800 (PST)
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NEAR Shoemaker Moving In for a Better Look at Eros
March 31, 2000
The true nature of Eros becomes a bit clearer --
literally -- as NEAR Shoemaker moves into a lower orbit
Shortly after 9 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, April 1, the
spacecraft will fire its thrusters for about 40 seconds
and begin gradually descending into position to start a
62-mile (100-kilometer) orbit on April 11.
Since March 3, NEAR Shoemaker has been in a nearly
circular orbit some 127 miles (205 kilometers) from the
center of Eros. NEAR team members say halving the
spacecraft's distance to the rotating space rock will
yield sharper images of the abundant geological features
on the asteroid's surface, giving them a chance to learn
more about the relationship between the many ridges,
grooves and craters.
Earlier than expected, the team is also gathering
information on the asteroid's elemental makeup. With the
help of three solar flares on March 22 and 23, the
spacecraft's X-Ray/Gamma Ray Spectrometer (XGRS) picked
up additional fluorescent "signatures" of magnesium,
aluminum, silicon, calcium and iron on the Eros surface.
The readings were similar to those the XGRS detected
during a solar flare on March 2 -- from four times the
distance the instrument is designed to operate.
"From that distance, the readings verify that the
instrument has the sensitivity we need," says Dr. Jacob
Trombka, XGRS instrument team leader from NASA's Goddard
Space Flight Center. "They continue to show us that the
calibration is on target and the instrument is working
as it should."
NEAR Shoemaker is about 135 million miles (218 million
kilometers) from Earth, moving 3 miles an hour around
Eros. The spacecraft is six weeks into its historic,
yearlong mission to study the asteroid.
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