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This image shows where NEAR will attempt to touchdown on the surface of Eros. The yellow circle is the touchdown area.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA/JHUAPL (John Hopkins University, Applied Physics Laboratory

NEAR to Touchdown on Surface of Asteroid!
News story originally written on February 2, 2001

The NEAR spacecraft has been in orbit around the asteroid Eros since Valentine's Day of last year. It has met all of its science goals. It has been a huge success!

On top of all that, NEAR will attempt to go where no spacecraft has ever gone before -- on February 12, 2001, NEAR will attempt to land on Eros!

Is this a risk? Sure is! NEAR will be over 196 million miles from Earth when touchdown occurs. The main goal will be for NEAR to collect close-up pictures of the surface of Eros before it lands. It could actually take pictures of surface features about 4 inches across. That sure is close-up! But, scientists have no idea whether or not NEAR will be functional after landing. If the sequence of engine thrusts doesn't go just right, NEAR could be smashed to pieces! But, scientists do hope that NEAR will be brought down softly enough to at least be able to receive a signal from the spacecraft.

NEAR will begin its descent at 10:31 a.m. EST on February 12th. After a series of engine firings, landing is expected just after 3 p.m. EST. Stay tuned for more news on this exciting mission!

Last modified February 2, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

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