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NEAR Shoemaker to land on Eros February 12
Posted: Thu, Feb 1, 2001, 11:29 AM ET (1629 GMT)
NEAR Shoemaker NASA's Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) Shoemaker mission will come to an end this month when the spacecraft attempts a landing on the asteroid Eros, project officials announced Wednesday. The spacecraft, in orbit around the asteroid for nearly a year, will begin a controlled descent to the asteroid's surface at 10:31 am EST (1531 GMT) February 12, starting from its current orbit 35 km above the surface. The spacecraft will return increasingly detailed images of the asteroid until it reaches 500 meters of the surface: after that controllers will use blurred images and other data to determine the spacecraft's location. The spacecraft is expected to touch down on Eros' surface at around 3 pm EST (2000 GMT); while the spacecraft wasn't designed to land officials hope it will still be able to transmit a beacon to let them know the spacecraft is still operating. NASA decided to end the mission in this manner since the spacecraft had met its science objectives and was running low on propellant; the high-resolution images it returns during its descent should help scientists better understand the asteroid's surface as well as plan for future asteroid landing missions.
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