Hope Dwindles for CONTOUR
21 Aug 2002
(Source: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)
http://www.contour2002.org/ After six days, the Mission Operations team has yet to hear a signal from the CONTOUR spacecraft.
Two objects, believed to be spacecraft segments, were detected Aug. 16, the day after the solid rocket motor burn, and a third more distant object has since been found. The objects are now more than 2 million kilometers from Earth, traveling at a steady 6.1 kilometers per second (3.8 miles per second or 13,600 miles per hour). They remain on a trajectory predicted by early observations; although they have now traveled so far from the Sun and Earth that more observations are unlikely.
Visit Spacewatch to see images of what is beleived to be the CONTOUR spacecraft.
If the spacecraft is still capable of operating, by Thursday, Aug. 22, it will have completed the first cycle of having each of its two transmitters attempt to send a signal through each of three antennas. Near continuous monitoring for CONTOUR continues through Sunday. After that, efforts will be scaled back to once a week - a schedule that will be maintained until early December when the spacecraft will come into a more favorable angle for receiving a signal from Earth. Deep Space Network coverage will extend through this weekend.
As far as contacting the spacecraft this week, Dr. Robert Farquhar, CONTOUR mission director from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory says, "We known there's not much room for optimism through this week. Even the second week of December, when we have our best shot, chances are small. But it's still worth monitoring."