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NEAR lands on Eros
Updated: Tue, Feb 13, 2001, 10:54 AM ET (1554 GMT)
Originally Posted: Mon, Feb 12, 2001, 4:31 PM ET (2131 GMT)
Illustration of NEAR landing on Eros NASA's NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft became the first spacecraft in history to land on an asteroid when it touched down on the surface of Eros Monday afternoon. The spacecraft landed on the asteroid at 3:02:10 pm EST (2002:10 GMT) and transmitted a beacon detected by the Deep Space Network. The landing came several hours after NEAR started its descent from an orbit 26 km from the surface of the asteroid. The spacecraft returned a number of images during the descent, the last of which was taken when the spacecraft was a scant 120 meters from the surface, so close that transmission of the image back to Earth was interrupted by the landing itself. Project officials are working on ways to return any additional data from the spacecraft while on the surface, and are even considering firing the spacecraft's engines to lift off the surface a short distance and land again at another location. Any such activity will have to take place by Wednesday, when funding for the project ends. A press conference is scheduled for 1 pm EST (1800 GMT) Wednesday to discuss the results of the landing: it will be broadcast on a secondary satellite feed as NASA TV will be covering a shuttle spacewalk at that time.
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