A new look at the trajectories for various spacecraft as they fly past the Earth finds in each case a tiny amount of surplus velocity. For craft that pursue a path mostly symmetrical with respect to the equator, the effect is minimal. For craft that pursue a more unsymmetrical path, the effect is larger. In the case of the NEAR asteroid rendevous craft (<http://near.jhuapl.edu/>), for instance, the velocity anomaly amounts to 13 mm/sec. Although this is only one-millionth of the total velocity, the precision of the velocity measurements, carried out by looking at the Doppler shift in radio waves bounced off the craft, is 0.1 mm/sec, and this suggests that the anomaly represents a real effect, one needing an explanation.
Some ten years ago another anomaly was identified for the Pioneer 10 spacecraft (see http://www.aip.org/pnu/1998/split/pnu391-1.htm) and a certain amount of controversy has clung to the subject since then. One of the researchers on that earlier measurement is part of the new study, conducted by Jet Propulsion Lab scientists. John D. Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org, 626-449-0102) says that the JPL scientists are now working with German colleagues to search for possible velocity anomalies in the recent flyby of the Rosetta spacecraft. (Anderson et al., Physical Review Letters, upcoming article; designated as an editor’s suggested articlePhysical Review Letters)
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