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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Deep Space 1 Flames Out
12 November 1998 5:00 pm
The novel ion engine powering NASA's Deep Space 1 asteroid probe unexpectedly shut down on Tuesday, just minutes after being started for the first time. But space agency engineers believe the mysterious failure will only temporarily stall the $152 million mission.
Space scientists knew the 2.5-meter-long spacecraft, launched 24 October, was a risky venture. Its design is testing the feasibility of a dozen futuristic technologies, including artificial intelligence software that will help steer the craft to a rendezvous with an asteroid in July and the innovative ion thruster. The engine, which is lighter and more efficient than conventional combustion motors, uses a spray of ionized xenon molecules to nudge the craft through space. Though the engine's thrust is equivalent to little more than the pressure exerted by a feather resting on a person's skin, in the vacuum of space it can gradually accelerate spacecraft to great speeds over long distances.
But Deep Space 1 won't be speeding up anytime soon unless ground controllers can figure out how to restart the balky engine. Several restart attempts have already failed, but engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are confident they will soon solve the problem, says spokesman John Watson. He notes that similar engines have exhibited temperamental behavior in ground tests. The flame-out, he predicts, will not sink the mission.