Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft nears launch - currently scheduled for 3:53 ET on February 16. NEAR's mission is to become the first spacecraft to rendezvous with and orbit an asteroid, the asteroid designated 433 Eros. After achieving Eros orbit in 1999, project plans are to explore the asteroid for 1 year from this premiere vantage point, perhaps approaching to within 15 miles of the surface. For comparison, above is an image of the limb of asteroid Ida made by the Galileo spacecraft from a distance of about 1,500 miles, the highest resolution image of an asteroid surface - so far. It is hoped that NEAR will go far towards answering questions about the nature and origin of near Earth asteroids. These objects are thought to contain clues to the formation of the inner planets and influence the evolution of the atmosphere and life on Earth. Are asteroids and meteorites related? Do asteroids ever strike the Earth?
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NASA Official: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.
Based on Astronomy Picture Of the Day
Publications with keywords: asteroid
Publications with words: asteroid