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NEAR mission comes to an end
Posted: Thu, Mar 1, 2001, 10:54 AM ET (1554 GMT)
Illustration of NEAR landing on Eros NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) Shoemaker mission ended Wednesday night with the last transmission of data from the surface of the asteroid Eros. The mission, originally slated to end on February 14, was extended when the spacecraft made a surprisingly successful landing on the surface of Eros on the 12th. The extension — originally ten days, then extended four more days — allowed the spacecraft's gamma-ray spectrometer to collect better data on the composition of the asteroid's surface and subsurface regions and transmit that data back to Earth. Scientists say it will take months to analyze the additional data, which should make up for relatively disappointing data the instrument returned while NEAR was in orbit around Eros. Project officials, however, are not ruling out the possibility of contacting the spacecraft again in August 2002, the next time that region of the asteroid is again in full sunlight. "There are no plans at this time to do such a thing, but it wouldn't be unreasonable to look into the idea," a project spokesperson told SPACE.com.
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