Montage of our solar system

The MUSES-C project, a joint effort of Japan's Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences (ISAS) and NASA to explore an asteroid and return a sample to Earth, has announced that the asteroid target of the project and the launch date have been changed.

The launch is now slated for November or December 2002, arrival at the asteroid in September 2005 and return to earth in June of 2007. Its previous schedule included launch in July 2002, arrival at its previous target in 2003, and return to Earth in June 2006.

The new target is the asteroid 1998 SF36. The NASA-built science payload is a rover that will gather and transmit science data to the Japanese spacecraft. The spacecraft will then gather and return to Earth samples of the asteroid. The ISAS-built spacecraft will stay at the asteroid for three months.

The launch date and subsequent target asteroid changes are due to delays in the provision of the Japanese MV launch vehicle, which will carry the MUSES mission to space.

Asteroid 1998 SF36, whose orbital period is about 1.5 years, will approach to within 6.4 million kilometers (4 million miles) of the Earth on March 29, 2001 and to within about 2.09 million kilometers (1.3 million miles) on June 25, 2004. Extensive ground-based observing campaigns will be planned near these close approach times to determine the asteroid's approximate size, shape, rotation state, and some surface characteristics.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., is managing the U.S. portion of the mission, which is called MUSES- CN, and includes the rover and various support services for the ISAS mission. ("MUSES-C" stands for Mu Space Engineering Spacecraft C, "N" refers to NASA.) The JPL MUSES-CN project has also arranged for the testing of the MUSES-C reentry heat shield at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. JPL will also arrange for supplemental tracking of the spacecraft by NASA's Deep Space Network, and will assist in navigating the spacecraft to the asteroid. Japanese and U.S. scientists will collaborate on the investigations of the asteroid and the returned samples.

For more information, see .

MUSES CN is managed for NASA's Office of Space Science by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

News Media Contact

Martha J. Heil (818) 354-0850