Shoemaker Goes Low
Shoemaker has entered a new orbit around Eros that will yield
even more spectacular high-resolution ../../../images and additional
information on the asteroid's elemental composition and gravity
short engine burn at 11 p.m. EDT on July 13 set NEAR Shoemaker
in a circular orbit just 22 miles (35 kilometers) from Eros'
center, giving the satellite its best view yet of the peanut-shaped
asteroid. Before getting to the detailed photos and surface
composition readings, the NEAR team will devote the first
four days of the 10-day orbit refining its estimate of the
NEAR Shoemaker's radio tracking equipment, the team will gather
data it needs to design lower-altitude operations later in
the mission, and learn more about Eros' internal makeup. "We're
looking for variations in density from one part of the asteroid
to another," says NEAR Project Scientist Andy Cheng. "It's
not entirely clear whether the density is uniform, so we have
to get closer and look harder."
spacecraft's near-polar orbit will bring it as close as 12
miles (19 kilometers) from the ends of the rotating asteroid.
Circling Eros at about 8 miles an hour, NEAR Shoemaker is
71 million miles (114 million kilometers) from Earth.
complete information on the mission, please see the NEAR
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