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NASA: CONTOUR may have broken up
Posted: Fri, Aug 16, 2002, 8:50 PM ET (0050 GMT)
CONTOUR spacecraft illustration (NASA/JHUAPL) An image from a groundbased telescope suggests that NASA's CONTOUR spacecraft may have broken up, project officials said late Friday. Mission director Robert Farquhar said that an image taken early Friday by the 1.8-meter Spacewatch telescope in Arizona shows two objects in the location where CONTOUR should be if it had fired its engine as scheduled early Thursday. "We haven't given up by any means, but the news is very discouraging," Farquhar was quoted as saying. Because the image shows the objects very near to the planned trajectory of CONTOUR, it suggests that if the spacecraft did break up, it did so near the end of its planned burn or shortly thereafter. The project plans to continue to scan the skies for radio signals from the spacecraft. A timer on the spacecraft is designed to reach zero on Monday, triggering commands for the spacecraft to transmit to Earth; efforts to search for signals from CONTOUR will continue at least through Monday.
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