Communications with the NEAR spacecraft on the surface of Eros have ended, the last reception of signal was at 7:00 p.m. EST on 28 February. See the NASA press release for more details. A graph of the measurements of the gamma-ray spectrometer on the surface of Eros is available.
NEAR Shoemaker touched down on the surface of Eros at 3:01:52 p.m. EST (20:01:52 UT) Monday, 12 February and contact has been maintained. The spacecraft apparently came to rest with the camera and gamma-ray spectrometer pointing towards the ground and the solar panels and low gain antenna pointing generally towards the Earth and Sun. Ample power is available and data can be transmitted at about 10 bits/sec.
The spacecraft impacted at a velocity of about 1.5 to 1.8 meters/second (3.4 to 4.0 mph). The spacecraft obtained 69 high-resolution images before touchdown, the final image showing an area 6 meters across. NEAR was not designed as a lander, but survived the low-velocity, low-gravity impact, a signal continued after the "landing" using the omni-directional low-gain antenna as a beacon. The NEAR team will not be attempting to lift off from the asteroid again. For more, see the NASA Press Release
For details of the plans for the landing, see the 31 January NASA Press Release
The Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission is the first of
NASA's Discovery missions and the first mission ever to go into orbit
around an asteroid. The spacecraft is equipped with an X-ray/gamma ray
spectrometer, a near-infrared imaging spectrograph, a multispectral camera
fitted with a CCD imaging detector, a laser altimeter, and a magnetometer.
A radio science experiment will also be performed using the NEAR tracking
system to estimate the gravity field of the asteroid. The ultimate goal of
the mission was to rendezvous with and achieve orbit around the near Earth
asteroid 433 Eros in January, 1999, and study the asteroid for
approximately one year. A problem caused an abort of the first encounter
burn and the mission had to be rescoped for a 23 December 1998 flyby of Eros
and a later encounter and orbit on 14 February 2000. Eros is an S-class
asteroid about 13 x 13 x 33 km in size. Studies will be made of the
asteroid's size, shape, mass, magnetic field, composition, and surface and
internal structure. Periapsis of the orbit will be as low as 24 km above the
surface of the asteroid. Prior to its encounter with Eros NEAR flew within
1200 km of the C-class asteroid 253 Mathilde on 27 June 1997. It then
flew by the Earth on 23 January 1998. The spacecraft has the shape of
an octagonal prism, approximately 1.7 m on a side, with four solar panels
and a fixed 1.5 m X-band high-gain radio antenna.
On Friday, 27 June 1997 at 8:56 AM EDT NEAR flew within 1200 km of the C-class main-belt asteroid 253 Mathilde. The fly-by took place at 9.93 km/sec and included high-resolution (180 m/pixel) and color (seven filter) imaging. The images will be used to study the size, shape, surface features, colors and to search for any small moons of Mathilde.
8 February 1999 NASA Press Release on the first Eros flyby.
Images of Eros from the first flyby - 23 December 1998
Information on the NEAR Mathilde Flyby
Information on the NEAR Eros Flyby
Information on the NEAR Mission Trajectory
Summary Information on NEAR Instruments
Information on Comet Hyakutake
NASA's Discovery Program
Pre-encounter background on 253 Mathilde
Pre-encounter background on 433 Eros
NEAR project home page - Applied Physics Lab, JHU
NEAR Mathilde encounter - Applied Physics Lab, JHU
NEAR MSI-NIS instrument information - Cornell University
NEAR Orbital Elements - Cornell University
NEAR Press Kit (ftp directory) - NASA Headquarters
Low-cost innovation in spaceflight - The NEAR Shoemaker mission (3.3 Mb PDF)
Detailed information on NEAR from the NSSDCA Master Catalog
Asteroid Fact Sheet
NSSDCA Asteroid Home Page
Other NASA planetary missions
NSSDCA Planetary Home Page