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Scientists Propose Naming Venus Craters for Famous Women

February 21, 1991

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ About 100 craters on Venus soon may be known by the last names of such famous women as the late authors Pearl Buck, Rachel Carson and Gertrude Stein.

Scientists studying Venus with the Magellan spacecraft have proposed the names to the International Astronomical Union, which has sole authority to approve them, U.S. Geological Survey geologist Gerald Schaber said Wednesday.

Other surnames for the planet’s meteorite impact craters include those of playwright Lillian Hellman, anthropologist Margaret Mead, playwright- ambassador Clare Boothe Luce and Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, said Schaber, who works on the Magellan project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

A crater field tentatively named after Stein was shown in one of three new pictures of the meteorite impact craters released by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Those craters - with widths of 5.6 miles, 6.8 miles and 8.7 miles - were formed when a meteorite broke into three pieces just before impact.

Also on Wednesday, engineers tried to cool the excessively warm Magellan by turning its solar power panels so they reflect less sunlight onto the Venus orbiter, said Steve Wall, spacecraft experiment representative.

Sunshine bouncing off the panels has contributed to unacceptably high temperatures on some of Magellan’s equipment, he said.

Dust or corrosion on mirrors designed to reflect sunlight off Magellan also contributed to Magellan’s excessive temperatures, officials said two weeks ago.

Magellan is now well past the halfway point in its $744 million mission to map up to 90 percent of Venus’ surface, using radar to peer through the planet’s thick clouds.

Magellan was launched from space shuttle Atlantis on May 4, 1989, started orbiting Venus last Aug. 10 and formally started mapping the planet Sept. 15.

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