Douglas Isbell Headquarters, Washington, D.C. September 21, 1994 (Phone: 202/358-1753) RELEASE: 94-159 NASA NAMES SCIENCE TEAM FOR ASTEROID RENDEZVOUS MISSION NASA has selected the science team for the first spacecraft designed to rendezvous with an asteroid. The Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission promises to answer fundamental questions about the nature of near-Earth objects such as asteroids and comets. These objects are believed to consist of debris from the earliest days of planetary formation 4.5 billion years ago, so better knowledge of them should provide clues about the origin and evolution of the Solar System. Scheduled for launch in February 1996 aboard a Delta 2 rocket, the NEAR spacecraft should arrive in orbit around asteroid 433 Eros in early January 1999. It will then survey the rocky body for a minimum of one year, at altitudes as close as 15 miles (24 kilometers). Eros is one of the largest and best-observed asteroids whose orbits cross Earth's path. These asteroids are closely related to the more numerous "Main Belt" asteroids that orbit the Sun in a vast doughnut-shaped ring between Mars and Jupiter. The goal of the NEAR project is to carry out a mission with high scientific return and wide participation at relatively modest cost. It will seek the first comprehensive measurements of an asteroid's mass, structure, geology, mineral composition, and gravity and magnetic fields. Science data and related products will be archived in near real-time in NASA's Planetary Data System (PDS), with access for the general science community, the public and educators via the Internet. The NEAR Science Payload consists of six instruments: a multispectral imager system; a near-infrared spectrograph; an X-ray/gamma-ray spectrometer; a magnetometer; a laser altimeter; and the spacecraft's radio, which is also used for gravity measurements. The members of the NEAR science team are: Multispectral Imager/Near-Infrared Spectrograph Joseph Veverka, Cornell University (Team Leader), Ithaca, N.Y. James F. Bell III, NASA Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif. Clark R. Chapman, Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Ariz. Michael C. Malin, Malin Space Science Systems, Inc., San Diego, Calif. Lucy-Ann A. McFadden, University of Maryland, College Park,Md. Mark S. Robinson, U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff, Ariz. Peter C. Thomas, Cornell University X-ray/Gamma-Ray Spectrometer Jacob I. Trombka, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (TeamLeader), Greenbelt, Md. William V. Boynton, University of Arizona, Tucson Johannes Bruckner, Max Planck Institut fur Chemie, Mainz, Germany Steven W. Squyres, Cornell University Magnetometer Mario H. Acuna, Goddard Space Flight Center (Team Leader) Christopher T. Russell, University of California, Los Angeles Light Imaging Detector and Ranger (LIDAR) Maria T. Zuber, Goddard Space Flight Center (Team Leader) Radio Science Donald K. Yeomans, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Team Leader), Pasadena, Calif. Jean-Pierre Barriot, Centre National D'Etudes Spatiales, Toulouse, France Alexander S. Konopoliv, Jet Propulsion Laboratory The NEAR Project Science Group will be co-chaired by Dr. Jurgen Rahe, the NASA Headquarters Program Scientist, and Dr. Andrew F. Cheng, NEAR Project Scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. APL will build and operate NEAR, making it the first NASA planetary mission to be conducted by a non-NASA space center. The facility-class Instrument Scientists at APL will be the main interface between the science team leaders and project engineers. The Instrument Scientists are: - Scott L. Murchie (Multispectral Imager/Near-Infrared Spectrograph) - Ralph L. McNutt (X-ray/Gamma-Ray Spectrometer) - Larry J. Zanetti (Magnetometer) - Andrew F. Cheng (LIDAR) The NEAR project began in late 1993. NEAR will be the first launch in NASA's Discovery program, an initiative based on small planetary science missions with short development cycles and stringent cost caps. It requires missions to proceed from development to flight in less than three years, with total spacecraft and instrument development costs limited to no more than $150 million (in FY 1992 dollars) and an acceptance of a greater level of technical risk than on typical NASA missions. The Solar System Exploration Division of the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters has program management responsibility for the NEAR mission.