NEAR Shoemaker

The Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR-Shoemaker) mission was a NASA Discovery mission launched in February 1996 to study asteroid Eros (Russell, 1998; Bell and Mitton, 2002). No aspect of its design was required to support a landing manoeuvre, since it was able to meet all its mission goals from orbit around the asteroid. However on 12 February 2001, in a grand finale to the mission, NEAR was commanded to descend to the surface, where it landed softly (at a speed of around 1.9 m s—1) and continued to operate (Dunham et al., 2002; see also Section 5.6), thus performing the first ever controlled landing on an asteroid. During descent, high resolution imagery was telemetered, and while on the surface valuable additional data was acquired from the gamma ray spectrometer and magnetometer instruments. Surface operations continued for 14 days.

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