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It's official: NEAR mission extended through end of month
Posted: Fri, Feb 23, 2001, 12:45 PM ET (1745 GMT)
Illustration of NEAR landing on Eros After a false alarm late Thursday, NEAR project officials confirmed Friday morning that the spacecraft's mission on the surface of the asteroid Eros will be extended through the end of the month to allow the spacecraft to collect more data. The mission had been granted a 10-day extension on February 14, its original termination date, to allow scientists to study the composition of the asteroid's surface after the spacecraft made a surprisingly successful landing on February 12. The spacecraft is just now beginning to return good data from its gamma ray spectrometer after engineers had to recalibrate the instrument, designed to work from orbit and not the surface. The first of three "prime data sets" has been returned, project officials said Friday morning, and two additional communications sessions using the Deep Space Network during this new extension should allow the rest of the data to be transmitted back to Earth. This latest extension was originally announced prematurely Thursday afternoon, then pulled from the project's web site: a project spokesperson said that NASA only gave its final approval to the extension Friday morning.
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