Dr. Marc Rayman's Mission Log

  November 24, 1998

Mission Update:

Thank you for visiting the Deep Space 1 mission status information site, now in its second month on the list of most frequently visited logged sources in the Milky Way galaxy for information on this technology validation mission. This message was logged in at 9:40 pm Pacific Time on Tuesday, November 24.

Deep Space 1 is now in powered flight. The ion propulsion system on Deep Space 1 is thrusting at this moment and has been doing so since shortly before 3:00 pm Pacific Time today. As part of an ongoing series of tests to gain insight into why the ion thruster turned off prematurely in its first test, the operations team commanded it on today for the first time in 2 weeks. This was designed principally to study currents and voltages in greater detail, but the team was fully prepared for the spacecraft to begin thrusting. Your loyal correspondent, probably representative of the entire team, had low expectations but high hopes that thrusting would resume. The system did come to life just as it was designed to; indeed, the beginning of thrusting was even smoother than in the first thrusting test 2 weeks ago. It is probable that the reason the thruster stopped 2 weeks ago is that a small piece of contamination caused a temporary short circuit. This will be studied more thoroughly as part of the overall assessment of the ion propulsion system. Because of the new software that was radioed to the spacecraft last Friday and loaded into the ion propulsion system's computer controller, today's success will provide even greater information on the thruster than the team had originally planned. This is an important and valuable step in DS1's charter of validating high-risk technologies critical for future space science missions.

Tomorrow's planned test of the advanced camera/spectrometer, which would have been used to view the now distant Earth, moon, and a star, is being canceled so that further ion propulsion system tests may be conducted. It has not yet been decided when the thruster will be turned off.

A skeleton team will monitor the spacecraft over the 4-day Thanksgiving holiday. With the rapid development phase for DS1 and the intense activities since launch, during which many important technology validation data were collected, the operations team will attempt to recapture remnants of normal life and have some time to rest. Your faithful correspondent will remain diligent and update this log if events warrant.

Deep Space 1 is now more than 13 times as far away from Earth as the moon. Radio signals, traveling at the universal limit of the speed of light, take more than half a minute to make the round trip. JPL astronomers managed to take a picture of the diminutive craft using one of the world's largest telescopes on Palomar Mountain on November 16 when DS1 was at a distance of 3.7 million kilometers or 2.3 million miles from Earth. The reflected sunlight from the spacecraft was 4 million times dimmer than our humble eyes could detect. You can see the picture by visiting the Press Releases/Images page.

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