Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

NEAR spacecraft moves closer to asteroid
Posted: Feb. 25, 2000

On Feb. 12, NEAR obtained a sequence of 780 images of Eros from a range of about 1100 miles. This sequence covered one complete revolution of the asteroid at 0.5 degree intervals. In these views of opposite hemispheres of the asteroid, groups of images slightly apart in time were digitally processed to bring out local details. The processed data showing Eros from slightly different perspectives can then be combined as anaglyphs or stereo pairs. The processing of the data highlights the topography of small-scale features, but makes the gross shape of the asteroid appear flattened. Photo: JHU/APL
A brief engine firing Thursday nudged the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) space probe ever closer to 433 Eros, a rock the craft began orbiting last week.

The maneuver puts NEAR on a gradual descent into a tighter orbit around the asteroid. The probe is on course to enter a 124-mile (200-kilometer) orbit on March 3, controllers said.

Several more orbit adjustments are scheduled during NEAR's one-year mission

NEAR has already returned images and other data about Eros' surface and geology.

Offiicals says two more science instruments aboard NEAR will be turned on this week -- the X-Ray/Gamma Ray Spectrometer and the Laser Rangefinder.

The laser scans will help determine Eros' exact shape, while the spectrometer will measure the asteroid's chemical elements.

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.

Other coverage
First science - Early data from NEAR indicates that 433 Eros is no ordinary space rock.
First orbit image - NEAR's first view of Eros after entering orbit around the asteroid.
Mission Status Center - our comprehensive coverage from orbit insertion.
Encounter Preview - background about NEAR's arrival at asteroid 433 Eros.

Eros' Heart - NEAR captures a heart-shaped object on asteroid Eros.

Road to Eros - montage of images show the asteroid from NEAR during approach over the past three weeks.
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