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2 June 1997 (revised 10 June) (revised 16 June)
For Immediate Release

Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous Encounter with Asteroid 253 Mathilde

The Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous spacecraft is quickly approaching a June 27 encounter with asteroid 253 Mathilde. The following media events are planned:

PRE-ENCOUNTER PRESS BRIEFING:
Monday, June 23, 1997

To be held at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C., 1 p.m.

Get an overview and update on the NEAR Discovery Mission from Dr. Wesley Huntress, NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Science; a briefing on the Mathilde encounter from NEAR Mission Director Dr. Robert W. Farquhar of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL); and more. Learn what to expect during the flyby and when. Media questions will be taken following the presentations.

ENCOUNTER DAY:
Friday, June 27, 1997

To be held in the Kossiakoff Center at APL in Laurel, Md. Doors open at 8 a.m.
Formal program begins at 2 p.m. (See maps.)

Hear status reports on mission operations and, if all goes as scheduled, see the first Mathilde images by late afternoon. The Kossiakoff Center will open at 8 a.m. for those wishing to follow the encounter as it happens.

PRESS CONFERENCE:
Monday, June 30, 1997

To be held in APL's Kossiakoff Center, Laurel, Md.,
starting at 1 p.m. (See maps.)

Hear an evaluation of the encounter from Mission Director Dr. Robert W. Farquhar; a report on Mathilde's mass and composition from Dr. Donald K. Yeomans of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL); and a report on the mission's imaging results by Dr. Joseph Veverka (Cornell University). Images from the Mathilde flyby will be available as handouts. A question and answer session will follow.

The NEAR Mission

The Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft was the first launch in NASA's Discovery Program. The spacecraft, which was designed and built by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, was launched Feb. 17, 1996, from Cape Canaveral, Fla. NEAR will conduct the first long-term, close-up look at an asteroid's surface composition and physical properties. The spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at asteroid 433 Eros on January 10, 1999, and will scrutinize the asteroid's surface from as close as 9 miles before the mission concludes on Feb. 6, 2000.

Mathilde is a C-type asteroid, the most common type of asteroid in the outer belt. It was discovered in 1885 and is one of the largest asteroids known. NEAR's brief Mathilde flyby will provide researchers with a wealth of information on the asteroid and lay valuable groundwork for the later study of Eros.



For more information contact

For more information, contact APL Public Information Officer Helen Worth; phone: 240-228-5113 or 410-778-5113.