Planetary Society Celebrates NEAR's Tryst with Eros

For Immediate Release
February 03, 2000

Mat Kaplan
Email: [email protected]
Phone: +1-626-793-5100

On February 14, 2000, the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft will arrive at its destination, an asteroid called Eros. The Planetary Society, in cooperation with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL), will mark this occasion with two special events in Laurel, Maryland on Thursday, February 10 -- the first All-Student Press Conference at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and a free evening event for the general public.


The Student Press Conference will encompass both the NEAR mission and the broader concept of future exploration of the solar system. Panelists will include Dr. Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society; Dr. Robert Gold, NEAR Science Payload Manager; Dr. Noam Izenberg, NEAR NIS Team Member; and Dr. Roald Sagdeev, professor at the University of Maryland, and the former director of the Institute for Space Research, Russian Academy of Sciences.

While active participation in the Student Press Conference is limited to young journalists from area middle schools and high schools, mainstream journalists are welcome to attend as observers. In other words, only the students will be permitted ask the panelists questions! However, the media can arrange interviews with the panelists at the conclusion of the Student Press Conference.

JHU/APL will host a lunch and a presentation about the laboratory's work for the students and their teachers following the press conference. Several Maryland schools have already registered to attend.


Thursday evening, February 10, The Planetary Society and JHU/APL will host a free public event entitled "NEAR's Tryst with Eros" at the JHU/APL Kossiakoff Conference and Education Center, from 7:00 to 8:30 PM. Speakers will include Louis Friedman; Tom Coughlin, NEAR Project Manager from JHU/APL; and a team of NEAR Science and Engineering Leaders.

"NEAR's Tryst with Eros" will provide an overview of the mission objectives as well as the reasons why near earth asteroids are such interesting small bodies to study. What can we learn from Eros in particular and asteroids in general? What was their role in the formation of the solar system? What threat might they pose to human civilization in the future? All this and more will be covered in a presentation that will include slides and video.


The NEAR team has invited Planetary Society members and others to suggest crater names for Eros, which will later be submitted to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) for official consideration. Named for the Greek god of love, Eros will be a fitting Valentine's Day target for NEAR to begin courting in a year-long mission in which the spacecraft will image and study the 33-kilometer-long asteroid. In keeping with the asteroid's namesake, the theme for crater names will be love. The craters of Eros can be named after famous lovers, legendary romantic locales, aspects of love, and so on. Name submissions -- accompanied by a short explanation (50 words maximum) -- may be brought to the public event or mailed to The Planetary Society.

The Student Press Conference will take place Thursday, February 10, 2000 at 10:00 AM, at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, 11100 Johns Hopkins Road, Laurel, Maryland. Unless alternate arrangements are made, each school is limited to sending two student journalists accompanied by one adult mentor.

The public event, "NEAR's Tryst with Eros," will be held Thursday, February 10 at 7:00 PM at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Admission is free and on a first come, first served basis.

About The Planetary Society

The Planetary Society has inspired millions of people to explore other worlds and seek other life. With the mission to empower the world's citizens to advance space science and exploration, its international membership makes the non-governmental Planetary Society the largest space interest group in the world. Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society in 1980. Bill Nye, a longtime member of The Planetary Society's Board, serves as CEO.