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Donald Savage Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1547)

January 25, 2001

Helen Worth Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, MD (Phone: 240/228-5113)



On Feb. 12, NASA makes history when mission controllers attempt to bring a spacecraft down to the surface of an asteroid for the first time.

Controllers will send commands to the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft

to initiate a four-hour series of engine burns designed to set

the spacecraft down gently on the asteroid Eros at about 3:01 p.m. EST.

The target site is on a saddle-shaped area known as Himeros on the Manhattan-sized asteroid. The goal is to obtain high- resolution imagery as NEAR Shoemaker, which has completed its one-year orbital mission of Eros, slowly drops to the surface.

A media briefing to discuss the mission's science results and

the details of the descent to the surface of Eros is set for 1 p.m. EST, Wednesday, Jan. 31, in the James E. Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. SW, Washington, DC. The briefing will be carried live on NASA Television with question-and-answer capability for reporters at participating NASA Centers.

Speakers for the briefing will be:

- Dr. Edward Weiler, Associate Administrator for Space Science, NASA Headquarters

- Dr. Andrew Cheng, NEAR Project Scientist, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, MD

- Dr. Mark Robinson, Imaging Team member, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

- Dr. Jessica Sunshine, Staff Scientist, Science Applications International Corp., Chantilly, VA

- Dr. Robert Farquhar, NEAR Mission Director, APL

On Monday, Feb. 12, 2001, "Descent to Eros" events will be held

at the Applied Physics Laboratory's Kossiakoff Center, in

Laurel, MD. Media interested in covering the descent activities

at APL should contact Helen Worth, APL Public Affairs Office.

A brief summary of the Feb. 12 activities are:

- 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. EST -- Recap of the mission

- 1:45 to 3:30 p.m. EST -- Descent Activities from the NEAR Mission Operations Center (broadcast live on satellite).

On Wednesday, Feb. 14, a press conference is scheduled at 1 p.m. EST in APL's Kossiakoff Center to discuss details of the landing. Because NEAR was not designed to land, there is very little chance the spacecraft will continue to operate after it reaches the surface of Eros.

Due to the expected launch of the space shuttle mission in February, live coverage of the descent-day activities on Feb. 12 and the post-mission briefing on Feb. 14 will not be broadcast on NASA TV, but will be available on a separate satellite. Details regarding those two events, including updated satellite information, will be provided early next month.

NASA TV is broadcast on GE-2, transponder 9C, C-Band, located at 85 degrees West longitude. The frequency is 3880.0 MHz. Polarization is vertical and audio is monaural at 6.8 MHz.