MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Mary Beth Murrill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEMarch 5, 1998
YEOMANS TO LEAD U.S. SCIENCE TEAM ON ASTEROID LANDER MISSION
Astronomer Dr. Donald K. Yeomans has been named project
scientist for the NASA portion of a joint U.S.-Japanese mission
that will be the first ever to send a lander and robotic rover to
an asteroid, and return an asteroid sample back to Earth.
Yeomans is a senior research scientist at JPL and supervisor
of the Laboratory's Solar System Dynamics Group, which is
responsible for tracking all the planets, natural satellites,
comets and asteroids in the solar system. He specializes in
identifying the orbital paths of comets, asteroids and other
bodies. Yeomans will lead the work of the U.S. science team in
utilizing the scientific instruments on the tiny book-size rover
being built at JPL for the asteroid lander mission, which is
called MUSES-C. The U.S. and Japanese science teams will
collaborate on the analysis of scientific data returned by the
spacecraft, including work on the asteroid sample that will be
brought back to Earth.
Scheduled for launch from Kagoshima, Japan on a Japanese M5
rocket in January 2002, MUSES-C will be the world's first
asteroid sample return mission and will be the first space flight
demonstration of several new technologies. "MUSES-C" stands for
Mu Space Engineering Spacecraft (the "C" signifies that it is the
third in a series). It is part of a series of flight technology
and science missions managed by the Institute of Space and
Astronautical Science of Japan (ISAS). NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA, is managing the U.S. portion of
the mission. Ross M. Jones is the project manager at JPL.
Asteroid 4660 Nereus, a small, near-Earth asteroid nearly
one mile in diameter, is the target of the MUSES-C mission that
will set a lander down on the asteroid's surface, let loose a
miniature rover to gather photos of the terrain, and collect and
return to Earth three samples from the asteroid's surface. The
lander and sample return vehicles are provided by Japan and the
rover is being provided by JPL. All three vehicles will be
combined as one package for flight to the asteroid.
Asteroids are thought to be remnants of the material from
which the inner solar system was formed 4.6 billion years ago.
They are representative of the fundamental building blocks that
coalesced into the terrestrial planets -- Mercury, Venus, Earth
and Mars. Scientists want to study asteroids because of the
clues these small bodies may hold to the origin and evolution of
the solar system. Eventually, metal-rich asteroids could also
serve as resources for space mining and human exploration.
Yeomans is well-known for his precise orbit determinations
of solar system objects. He provided the accurate position
predictions that led to the first telescope sighting of comet
Halley on its return visit to the inner solar system in 1982. He
provided the predictions that led to the successful flybys of
five international spacecraft past comet Halley in March 1986.
Yeomans also provided the position predictions for asteroids 951
Gaspra and 243 Ida that helped the Galileo spacecraft to make the
first close-up images of an asteroid. More recently, he worked
with Dr. Paul Chodas, also of JPL, to provide the accurate
predictions for the impacts of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with
Jupiter in July 1994. Yeomans is currently a science investigator
on a NASA mission to fly past three different comets. He is also
the radio science team chief for NASA's Near-Earth Asteroid
Rendezvous (NEAR) mission, a spacecraft headed for an encounter
with the asteroid Eros.
Yeomans has been given seven NASA awards including an
Exceptional Service Medal in 1986. In addition, he was presented
with a Space Achievement Award by the American Institute of
Aeronautics and Astronautics, an award of appreciation by the
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. Asteroid 2956 was
re-named 2956 in Yeomans' honor. He has authored four books and
more than 80 technical papers on comets and asteroids.
A native of Rochester, NY, Yeomans received his bachelor's
degree in mathematics in 1964 from Middlebury College in
Middlebury, VT, and a master's degree in 1967 and doctorate in
astronomy in 1970 from the University of Maryland. Yeomans and
his wife, Laurie, have two adult children and reside in La
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.