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CONTOUR remains silent
Posted: Fri, Aug 16, 2002, 10:16 AM ET (1416 GMT)
CONTOUR spacecraft illustration (NASA/JHUAPL) Mission controllers have yet to reestablish communications with NASA's CONTOUR spacecraft, more than 24 hours after it was scheduled to fire its engine and leave orbit. Project officials said they are continuing to scan the sky in the area the spacecraft should be if it fired its engine as scheduled early Thursday, but have yet to detect any signals from the spacecraft. CONTOUR is programmed to turn 40 degrees if it does not establish communications 24 hours after leaving Earth orbit, in an effort to better orient its antenna towards Earth. However, project officials don’t know even if the spacecraft fired its engine as planned, or even if the spacecraft is still intact. "We're working on the assumption that the motor fired, and the team is putting its priority there," mission director Robert Farquhar said. CONTOUR (Comet Nucleus Tour) is a Discovery-class NASA spacecraft designed to fly by the nuclei of at least two comets. The spacecraft was launched on a Delta 2 in early July and placed in an elliptical phasing orbit around the Earth to put it in position to leave orbit on a trajectory towards comet Encke.
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