NEAR Shoemaker

Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous

See the NEAR Eros Descent Images

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

Launch Date: 17 February 1996 - 20:43 UT (3:43 PM EST)
Launch Vehicle: Delta II
Planned on-orbit mass: 805 kg (includes 318 kg propellant)
Power System: Solar panels of 1800 W

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.

Detailed NEAR Spacecraft and Mission Information

Multispectral Imager (MSI)
Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIS)
X-ray / Gamma-ray Spectrometer (XRS-GRS)
Magnetometer (MAG)
Laser Rangefinder (NLR)
Radio Science (RS) and Gravimetry

NEAR Eros Descent Images

Images of Eros from orbit

Images of Eros from the approach

Science results from Eros

Images of Mathilde

Movie of the Mathilde Flyby

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.

Results from the Flyby of 253 Mathilde

Size estimated to be about 66 x 48 x 46 km
Volume estimated at 78,000 cubic km (within ~15%)
Mass estimated at 1017 kg (within ~3%)
Density estimated at 1.34 gram/cm3
Five craters found over 20 km across
Largest crater 30 km wide, 6 km deep
No satellites found

Images taken during the Earth flyby

Press Release on Earth Swingby - 23 January 1998

8 February 1999 NASA Press Release on the first Eros flyby.

Images of Eros from the first flyby - 23 December 1998

Press release on the NEAR Eros rendezvous - 8 February 2000

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)


Images of Eros
Images from the Earth Flyby
Images from the Eros and Mathilde Flybys
Movie of the Mathilde Flyby
More Mathilde Images
Gamma-Ray Spectrometer measurements on the surface of Eros

Press Releases

The End of an Asteroidal Adventure NEAR Shoemaker Phones Home for the Last Time - 28 February 2001
NEAR Shoemaker Makes Historic Touchdown on Asteroid Eros - 12 February 2001
NEAR Mission Completes Main Task, Now Will Go Where No Spacecraft Has Gone Before - 31 January 2001
Briefings and Live Feed Set for First Asteroid Touchdown - 25 January 2001
NEAR Shoemaker Observations Link Eros to Primordial Solar System - 30 May 2000
Mission was renamed NEAR Shoemaker in honor of Gene Shoemaker - 14 March 2000
NEAR poised for Valentine's Day Asteroid Encounter - 8 February 2000
NEAR spacecraft reveals major features of Eros - 8 February 1999
NEAR spacecraft set for January 3 burn - 30 December 1998
Burn Abort and new Eros encounter plan - 22 December 1998
Briefing on upcoming Eros Encounter - 11 December 1998
NEAR Completes Earth Swingby - 23 January 1998
NEAR Earth Flyby and Sunglints - 15 January 1998
Gamma Ray Bursts observed by NEAR - 29 September 1997
Asteroid Mathilde reveals her dark past - 30 June 1997
NEAR observations of Comet Hyakutake planned for 24 March 1996 - March 1996

Detailed information on NEAR from the NSSDCA Master Catalog

Asteroid Fact Sheet
NSSDCA Asteroid Home Page
Other NASA planetary missions
NSSDCA Planetary Home Page

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Dr. David R. Williams,
NSSDCA, Mail Code 690.1
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771

NASA Official: Dr. David R. Williams,
Last Updated: 07 August 2015, DRW