With Venus, and the Magellan spacecraft, rapidly approaching a position on the far side of the sun from Earth, Magellan Project officials at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have decided to suspend mapping early Friday.

The position of Earth and Venus, called superior conjunction, has the sun nearly between the planets. Venus is more than 154 million miles from Earth during this period.

The decision was made late Thursday to suspend mapping at 6:33 a.m. PDT Friday at the end of orbit 676 because of increasing difficulties with telecommunication, navigation, spacecraft performance and radar data quality.

The spacecraft will halt mapping maneuvers and hold its position with the high-gain antenna pointed to Earth and the solar panels toward the sun.

The solar panels have been oscillating due to contrary commands from the computer and the sun sensors. Spacecraft engineers hope to resolve this problem when mapping resumes in early to mid-November.

The portion of Venus not imaged during this period will be covered during the extended mission in eight months.

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