Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

NEAR's historic first image from Eros orbit
Posted: Feb. 14, 2000

  First orbit image
The first image of Eros taken after NEAR entered orbit today. Photo: JHU/APL
Monday at 10:33 a.m. EST the NEAR spacecraft was successfully inserted into orbit around 433 Eros, becoming the first artificial satellite of an asteroid.

Just over an hour later, NEAR pointed its camera at the asteroid and took this picture from a range of 210 miles (330 km) above the surface. Mission navigators and operators will use this image and others to be taken later to traingulate on landmarks on the asteroid's surface, precisely measuring position of the spacecraft to plot NEAR's course.

Features as small as a 100 feet (30 meters) across can be seen. This view shows the 3-mile (5-kilometer) impact crater which the spacecraft has spied for over a week during its approach. The two smaller craters superimposed on its rim are each about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) across. An enormous boulder a full 170 feet (50 meters) in size sits on the large crater's floor.

Other key features of the surface are shallow subsurface layering exposed near the tops of crater walls, and shallow grooves crossing the surface and cutting the crater's rim.

Built and managed by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, NEAR was the first spacecraft launched in NASA's Discovery Program of low-cost, small-scale planetary missions.

Mission Status Center
For the latest updates on the progress of the orbit insertion see Spaceflight Now's regularly updated Mission Status Center.

Video vault
Animation shows the NEAR spacecraft encountering 433 Eros and firing its thrusters to begin orbiting the asteroid.
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