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The Nir spacecraft and the asteroid Eros met on Valentine's Day

NASA simulation: the Nir spacecraft and the asteroid Eros. A potato is 33 km long

Tamara Traubman

The Nir spacecraft met with the asteroid 433 Eros yesterday. after a daughter flight
4 years, NIR (English acronym for "Asteroid Encounters
close to Earth") is now about 300 kilometers away
Marus, and is the first spacecraft to orbit an asteroid.
"We made history today," said Dr. Robert Farquhar, director, last night
the task.

Last year, the spacecraft missed a meeting with Eros. The Americans chose
Carefully note the current meeting time. "I'm a romantic," admits Dr
parkour "Valentine's Day (which fell yesterday) seems to be the most appropriate time
For a meeting with the asteroid, named after the god of love in mythology
The Greek".

Eros looks like a potato 33 kilometers long. Apparently, he is
ejected from the "asteroid belt" between Mars and Jupiter and approached Earth.
Today it orbits the sun at a distance of about 257 million kilometers from the globe
Although Eros is not a danger to Earth, the things that will be learned from him
May help scientists and engineers prepare for a dangerous asteroid.
Many asteroids have collided with the Earth and the Moon in the past, and "as is common sense
A dinosaur can tell, it's important to keep an eye out for nearby asteroids
to the earth", says NASA.
David Rabinovitch of Yale University recently published a research paper
The magazine ""Nature" in which he says that the chance of a large asteroid colliding
The Earth is much smaller than previously thought, and it is unlikely that this will happen
in the following centuries. There is a 1% chance that an asteroid is smaller,
with a diameter of about 300 meters will hit the earth in the next century.

Nir entered its orbit around Eros yesterday, and it continues to approach him
gradually. This is a very difficult task to perform, because Eros has an indeterminate form
uniform "Our navigational maneuvers must be perfect, to prevent
than to crash into an asteroid," says Farquhar.

The conventional wisdom is that asteroids are remnants of planets, however
Although they have been known for about 200 years, many of their properties are still unknown.
What exactly are they made of? How were they created? If an asteroid is discovered
Which is a danger to the peace of the earth, how should it be dealt with? Is it worth sending?
A missile that will blow it to pieces or try to divert it from its course by means

Nir carries several sophisticated devices, including a camera that maps my face
Eros' territory. Additional devices measure the density of the soil, assembly
The chemical and magnetic field of the asteroid. during the next two months
The spacecraft will reach a distance of 50 kilometers from Eros. In December, she will try
to come within a kilometer of it. An infrared spectrometer with separation capability
Very high located in the spacecraft will collect data on the surface, which will allow
Notice rock formations the size of a grapefruit.

"This will give the scientific community the first absolute measurements of
Asteroid magnetism, containing clues to thermal history
And its geology," says Dr. Andrew Cheng, one of the mission's scientists.
"These and other measurements, which will be taken during the next year, will help us determine
What is the origin of the asteroid, and they will give us an unprecedented understanding of all asteroids."
{Appeared in Haaretz newspaper, 15/2/2000{

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