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NEAR Shoemaker
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NEAR Shoemaker
NEAR Shoemaker Mission to Asteroids

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.


Key Dates
17 Feb 1996:  Launch
27 Jun 1997:  Asteroid Mathilde Flyby
23 Dec 1999:  Asteroid Eros Flyby
14 Feb 2000:  Eros Rendezvous
12 Feb 2001:  Touchdown on Asteroid Eros (19:44:16 UTC)
Status: Success
Fast Facts
NEAR Shoemaker Facts NEAR photographed 60 percent of the surface of asteroid Mathilde (right) in a 1997 flyby.

The spacecraft was the first to rely on solar power beyond Mars orbit.

NEAR touched down on asteroid Eros at a gentle 1.5 meters per second (3.6 mph).

NEAR Shoemaker was the first spacecraft to orbit and touchdown on the surface of an asteroid.

NEAR Shoemaker was NASA's first Discovery Program spacecraft to be launched.

NEAR Shoemaker also flew by and imaged asteroid 253 Mathilde.
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Last Updated: 9 May 2014