NASA engineers rescue crippled comet chaser
Artist concept of Deep Space 1
(CNN) -- An ailing experimental spacecraft on a deep space
mission has resumed powered flight, thanks to an on-the-fly repair
by NASA engineers.
After flying blindly for seven months, the revived Deep Space
1 now has a chance to make a planned rendezvous with a comet
in September 2001, said mission engineer Marc Rayman this
"The entire undertaking has been one of the most challenging
yet one of the most successful and impressive robotic space
rescues ever," Rayman wrote on the mission Web site.
Two months after completing its primary mission, testing an
array of new technologies, Deep Space 1 unexpectedly lost the
use of its star tracker navigation system.
Mission engineers managed to restore its
sense of direction by writing new computer programs to use an
onboard camera instead of the star tracker.
The new method allows the spacecraft to orient itself in part
by taking pictures of a reference star, said Rayman, who
works at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena,
After mission controllers ran tests on their novel fix, Deep
Space 1 completed its first full week of ion propulsion
thrusting this week, according to NASA.
The team elected to "aim for the grand prize of being ready
to resume thrusting in July" to give Deep Space 1 a chance to
encounter comet Borrelly," Rayman said.
The long hiatus will nonetheless prevent Deep Space 1 from
attempting a planned rendezvous with comet Wilson-Harrington
Launched in 1998, Deep Space 1 did manage to fly by asteroid
9969 Braille in July 1999. The spacecraft is about 196 million
miles (315 million km) from Earth.
June 5, 2000
Orbiter moves closer to asteroid Eros
February 25, 2000
NASA to give up search for silent Mars Polar Lander
January 16, 2000
Deep Space 1 soars
October 24, 1998
Deep Space 1
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