The End is NEAR

The NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft, which was the first to orbit an asteroid, is laid to rest, but not before producing many firsts for science and loads of pictures.

The Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission to rendezvous and orbit with the asteroid Eros, completed an extended mission and will be laid to rest on the asteroid’s surface.

The NEAR Shoemaker robotic spacecraft accomplished many firsts such as a historic first-ever attempted and first successful orbiting an asteroid which occurred on Valentines Day (February 14th) of 2000, and the first-ever attempted and successful landing of a spacecraft on an asteroid almost a year later (February 12th, 2001). The spacecraft also took many pictures of the surface of asteroid Eros in black and white and in color, took surface elevations, and took spectrometer readings.

The NEAR Shoemaker robotic spacecraft survived a controlled touchdown on and still responds from the asteroid’s surface. There is too little fuel to make any serious flight attempt so a relaunch of the spacecraft has been abandoned.

Over the course of the year, a few days (February 14, 2000 – February 28, 2001) NEAR accomplished its primary mission and extended mission and collected mounds of data for scientists. Scientists will now work to make sense of all the data they collected on the asteroid Eros.

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