CONTOUR Search Scaled Back
23 Aug 2002
(Source: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)
CONTOUR Mission Status Report
Continual monitoring for signals from the CONTOUR spacecraft has been scaled back. When communications from the spacecraft ceased on Aug. 15, the mission entered "emergency" status, making it eligible for round-the-clock coverage from NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) antenna stations.
Now, nine days after their last contact with the solar-powered probe, the CONTOUR mission team says its time to move on. "Given the disappointing circumstances, it was time to scale back our monitoring," says Mission Director Dr. Robert Farquhar, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. "We don't want to take DSN time that could be used more effectively by other missions."
Mission operators are now listening for a signal just once a week, for approximately 8 hours each time. Yesterday, for the first time since Aug. 15, they started sending commands and will continue to do so during each of the contact attempts. The commands are designed to configure the spacecraft for active communication in case commands that are part of onboard autonomy did not do so already.
The reduced monitoring schedule will continue until early to mid-December. Then, for 2-3 days, the Earth will be near the center of the pancake (multidirectional) antenna's beam width. This will be the best alignment of spacecraft and Earth since the anomaly and the best chance the team will have for making contact.
For a look at CONTOUR's antenna configuration, visit: http://www.contour2002.org/overview2.html