Goals: NEAR Shoemaker's primary goal was to rendezvous with minor planet 433 Eros (a S-class asteroid), approximately 355 million km from Earth, and gather data on its composition and physical properties.
Accomplishments: The Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous, or NEAR, was the first space probe to orbit and perform an in-depth investigation of an asteroid and then safely land on it. After a flyby and imaging run past asteroid 253 Mathilde in 1997, NEAR Shoemaker began orbiting asteroid 433 Eros on 14 February 2000. The spacecraft returned the highest resolution images made of an asteroid at the time, as well as measuring its size, shape, mass, mass distribution, gravity and magnetic field.
On 12 February 2001, the spacecraft made the first controlled descent to the surface of an asteroid, snapping an incredible series of 69 close-up photos of the rocky surface. After landing, the spacecraft sent back data from the surface of Eros for two weeks.