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IMAGE OF ASTEROID 9969 BRAILLE
(FORMERLY 1992 KD)

Image of Asteroid 9969 Braille Taken By Deep Space 1

Asteroid 9969 Braille
Taken By Deep Space 1
July 28, 1999

On October 2, 1998, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Dr. Stuart Shaklan and Dr. Steven Pravdo used the Stellar Planet Survey (STEPS) instrument on the Palomar 200" telescope to make astrometric observations of asteroid 1992 KD in a background of stars.
Photo of Asteroid 9969 Braille taken by Palomar 200-inch Telescope

Asteroid 9969 Braille
October 2, 1998

Dr. Donald Yeomans and Eleanor Helin of JPL provided the predicted ephemerides. Because the team was tracking on the motion of the asteroid, the stars appear to be elongated in the image. On the left edge of the image is the trail of an artificial satellite that coincidentally streaked across the field. Dr. Andrea Boattini and JPL's Dr. David Rabinowitz reduced the astrometric data from three images. The field of view is 150 arc seconds or 2 = arc minutes across, or approximately 0.04 degrees. Top of the image is north, and east is to the left.

In July 1999, NASA's Deep Space 1 technology validation mission is scheduled to fly by 1992 KD at a distance of 199 million km (124 million miles) from the Sun and 188 million km (117 million miles) from Earth. Although this flyby is not a required part of the mission, it will assist in the further validation of several of the mission's dozen new technologies.

The asteroid, which was discovered in May, 1992, by astronomer Eleanor Helin, has a highly elliptical orbit; the closest it gets to the Sun is a point midway between Earth and Mars, whereas at its most distant it is more than three times farther from the Sun than Earth, or more than halfway out to the giant planet Jupiter. This image, comprised of the first reported observations of 1992 KD since 1996, has helped to refine the asteroid's orbit and provide a more accurate target for the Deep Space 1 encounter.

During the encounter, Deep Space 1's autonomous optical navigation system will attempt to guide the spacecraft to within 10 km (6 miles) of the asteroid's surface, making it the closest flyby of a solar system body ever attempted. Just before the flyby, the system will analyze approach images to determine if an even closer encounter is safe, and, if so, the systems will reduce the closest approach altitude to just 5 km (3 miles).

Deep Space 1 is the first mission under NASA's New Millennium Program testing new technologies for use on future science missions. Among its 12 new technologies are a xenon ion propulsion system, autonomous navigation, a high-efficiency solar array and a miniature camera/spectrometer.

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