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Subject: * SpaceNews 08-Dec-97 *
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* SpaceNews 08-Dec-97 *

BID: $SPC1208


                        MONDAY DECEMBER 8, 1997

SpaceNews originates at KD2BD in Wall Township, New Jersey, USA.  It
is published every week and is made available for non-commercial use.

You're most cordially invited to join in the 26th annual Straight Key Night
on OSCAR, sponsored by AMSAT-NA for Amateur Radio satellite enthusiasts

It's entirely unofficial: no rules, no scoring and no need to send in a log.
Just call CQ SKN in the CW passband segment of any OSCAR satellite from 0000
to 2359 UTC on January 1, 1998, or answer a CQ SKN call from another station.
OSCAR Zero (EME) contacts count too.  Of course, all SKN operating must be
done with a straight hand key.

Those participating are encouraged to nominate someone they worked for
recognition as having the "best fist."  To send in a "best fist" nomination,
please address it via e-mail to <w2rs@amsat.org>, via packet radio to
W2RS @ WA2SNA or W2RS @ GB7HSN (whichever is closer to you), or via
"snail-mail" to W2RS' callbook address.  Those nominated will be featured
in a bulletin sent to Amateur Radio publications and posted via ANS to
packet radio and the Internet in early February.

[Info via Ray Soifer, W2RS]

After operating on the surface of Mars three times longer than expected and
returning a tremendous amount of new information about the red planet, NASA's
Mars Pathfinder mission is winding down.

Flight operators at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, made the
announcement November 4th after attempting to reestablish communications with
the spacecraft throughout October.   With depletion of the spacecraft's main
battery and no success in contacting Mars Pathfinder via its main or secondary
transmitters, the flight team cannot command the spacecraft or the small rover
named Sojourner that had been roving about the landing site and studying rocks.

At the time the last telemetry from the spacecraft was received, Pathfinder's
lander had operated nearly three times its design lifetime of 30 days, and
the Sojourner rover operated 12 times its design lifetime of seven days.

Since its landing on July 4, 1997, Mars Pathfinder has returned 2.6 billion
bits of information, including more than 16,000 images from the lander and
550 images from the rover, as well as more than 15 chemical analyses of rocks
and extensive data on winds and other weather factors.  The only remaining
objective was to complete the high-resolution 360-degree image of the landing
site called the "Super Pan," of which 83 percent has already been received
and is being processed.  The last successful data transmission cycle from
Pathfinder was completed at 3:23 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Sept. 27,
which was Sol 83 of the mission.

The Mars Pathfinder team first began having communications problems with
the spacecraft on Saturday, Sept. 27.  After three days of attempting to
reestablish contact, they were able to lock on to a carrier signal from
the spacecraft's auxiliary transmitter on Oct. 1, which meant that the
spacecraft was still operational.  They locked on to the same carrier
signal again on Oct. 6, but were not able to acquire data on the condition
of the lander.  At that time, the team surmised that the intermittent
communications were most likely related to depletion of the spacecraft's
battery and a drop in the spacecraft's operating temperatures due to
the loss of the battery, which kept the lander functioning at warmer

Although the true cause of the loss of lander communications may never be
known, recent events are consistent with predictions made at the beginning
of the extended mission in early August.  When asked about the life expectancy
of the lander, project team members predicted that the first thing that would
fail on the lander would be the battery; this apparently happened after the
last successful transmission September 27.

After that, the lander would begin getting colder at night and go through much
deeper day-night thermal cycles.  Eventually, the cold or the cycling would
probably render the lander inoperable.  It appears that this sequence of
events has probably taken place.  The health and status of the rover is also
unknown, but since initiating its onboard backup operations plan two months
ago, the rover is probably circling the vicinity of the lander, attempting
to communicate with it.

The rover, which went into a contingency mode on Oct. 6, or Sol 92 of the
mission, had completed an alpha proton X-ray spectrometer study of a rock
nicknamed Chimp, to the left of the Rock Garden, when it was last heard from.
The rover team had planned to send the rover on its longest journey yet --
a 50-meter (165-foot) clockwise stroll around the lander -- to perform a
series of technology experiments and hazard avoidance exercises when the
communications outage occurred.  That excursion was never initiated once
the rover's contingency software began operating.

Engineering milestones of the mission included demonstrating a new way of
delivering a spacecraft to the surface of Mars by way of direct entry into
the Martian atmosphere.  In addition, Mars Pathfinder demonstrated for the
first time the ability of engineers to deliver a semi-autonomous roving
vehicle capable of conducting science experiments to the surface of
another planet.

The Mars Pathfinder mission is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for
NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC.  The mission is the second
in the Discovery program of fast track, low-cost spacecraft with highly
focused science goals. JPL is managed by the California Institute of
Technology, Pasadena, CA.

[Info via NASA/JPL]

Reception reports of the Sputnik-40/RS-17 continue to be received.  Reception
verifications are possible through either of the following mail addresses.
Cut off date for a card submission is February 98:

        Sergej Samburov
        PO Box 73
        Kaliningrad-10 City
        Moscow Area, 14070, Russia

        FR5KJ Radio Club
        103 rue de la Republique
        97489 Saint Denis Cedex
        Reunion Island

Envelopes should be well sealed and should not include cash.  Send an SASE
and an IRC coupon along with your reception report.  Do not make any notes
on the out side of the envelope with Amateur Radio callsigns visible.

* SpaceNews NEWS *
Due to circumstances beyond control, SpaceNews was not issued last week

Comments and input for SpaceNews should be directed to the editor (John,
KD2BD) via any of the paths listed below:

WWW       : http://www.njin.net/~magliaco/
INTERNET  : kd2bd@amsat.org, magliaco@email.njin.net

       <<=- SpaceNews: The first amateur newsletter read in space! -=>>


-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- John A. Magliacane, KD2BD -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
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