NASA orbiter backs off asteroid Eros
NEAR-Shoemaker snapped this picture of several horizons on Eros from a distance of 24 miles (38 km)
(CNN) -- A NASA spacecraft shifted into higher orbit around
the asteroid Eros this week, after spending five months moving
steadily closer to the space rock.
The NEAR-Shoemaker had circled the center of the
potato-shaped rock from a distance of 22 miles (35 km) for
ten days, studying its chemical composition and taking close-
But controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied
Physics Laboratory directed the craft to maneuver to an
orbit of 31 miles (50 km).
The new distance will allow the NEAR (Near Earth Asteroid
Rendezvous) team to gather additional data and global
images of Eros, in particular of the southern pole, which
remained shrouded in seasonal darkness during the first
months of the mission.
NEAR-Shoemaker began a yearlong study of the Manhattan-sized
asteroid on February 14. The probe will perform more low-
altitude maneuvers in the future, perhaps even briefly
touching the surface, according to NASA scientists.
| GALLERY |
| MESSAGE BOARD|
The $224 million NEAR mission was launched in 1996. The craft
was to begin orbiting Eros in 1999, but it malfunctioned en route and sped past the asteroid, briefly lost contact with Earth and
burned about 20 percent of its fuel.
Engineers managed to regain control when the craft had about
ten minutes of electrical power left.
Spacecraft gets closest look yet at asteroid
July 18, 2000
Summer lets orbiter see asteroid Eros in new light
June 27, 2000
Asteroid Eros resembles 'building blocks' of Earth
May 31, 2000
NASA unveils quartet of asteroid movies
April 28, 2000
Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous Mission
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