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NASA Captures Images of Asteroid

July 31, 1999

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ A NASA spacecraft that made the closest flyby ever of an asteroid has sent mission controllers infrared images of the asteroid, though it failed to capture closeup pictures.

The Deep Space 1 probe, which flew within an estimated 10 miles of the Asteroid Braille on Wednesday, began transmitting data from its infrared camera on Friday, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said.

Four black-and-white images were taken by the spacecraft’s camera _ two about 70 minutes before its closest approach and two of poorer quality about 15 minutes after the encounter more than 117 million miles from Earth.

The spacecraft was unsuccessful in capturing close-ups of the giant orbiting rock because of a failure to aim the spacecraft’s camera correctly. Pictures sent back showed only empty space.

The barrel-shaped, 8-foot spacecraft was launched in October and designed primarily to test new forms of technology for future deep-space flights. The mission costs $152 million.

Deep Space 1 will remain functional when its prime mission officially ends Sept. 18, and could fly by two comets in 2001 if an extended mission is funded.

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