Movie Shows NEAR Shoemaker's Approach to Eros
new movie from the NEAR mission features stunning close-up
views of 433 Eros as the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft made its
descent to the asteroid.
minute-long movie, available on the NEAR
web site, covers the final moments of NEAR's yearlong orbit
at Eros. NEAR Shoemaker made history on Feb. 12, 2001, when
the orbiter became the first spacecraft to land and then operate
on the surface of an asteroid. NASA extended the mission until
Feb. 28, 2001, so the spacecraft could gather additional data
on the 21-mile-long space rock.
Eros: The Final Approach
team member Mark Robinson produced the movie from 64 detailed
pictures NEAR Shoemaker snapped during the last 3 miles (about
5 kilometers) of its controlled descent. Pointed at the surface
during the entire landing sequence and taking about two pictures
a minute, the digital camera pans over cracked and jagged
rocks, boulder patches, craters filled with dust and debris,
and mysterious areas where the surface appears to have collapsed.
The final frame, taken 422 feet (128 meters) above Eros just
moments before touchdown, shows features the size of a golf
movies are a great way to see the complex surface properties
on Eros," says Robinson, a research assistant professor in
the Department of Geological Sciences at Northwestern University,
Evanston, Ill. "Set in motion, the descent ../../../images clearly
show the asteroid's varied terrain, for example, when NEAR
Shoemaker moves over boulder patches into smoother areas just
before the landing site. This was the closest look we had
at Eros and the pictures are incredibly valuable to our studies."
image processing is a joint project between Northwestern,
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL)
in Laurel, Md., and Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
Go to 2001 News Articles Archive