Exploring the Solar System

Exploring Asteroids and Comets

How did the NEAR spacecraft get to asteroid 433 Eros?

As NEAR flew toward Eros, it first flew by the asteroid 253 Mathilde on June 7, 1997, and then by Earth on January 23, 1998. Originally, NEAR was to arrive at the asteroid Eros in January 1999, and orbit the asteroid for one year. Regrettably, just a few weeks before the scheduled rendezvous, an improper firing of the spacecraft’s engine put the mission in jeopardy. Instead, NEAR flew by Eros on December 23, 1998. NASA spent more than a year getting the spacecraft back into position for an orbital insertion. On February 14, 2000, NEAR was able to connect with Eros and began to orbit the asteroid.


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