Near-earth Asteroid Rendezvous (near Shoemaker)

First mission to orbit an asteroid (see http://near.jhuapl.edu/). The spacecraft carried instruments, including a multi-Spectral Imager (MSI) used to determine Eros’s shape and surface features, and mineral distributions. Other instruments determines the distribution and abundance of surface minerals like olivine and pyroxene, searched for induced magnetic fields, and used laser ranging to construct topographic profiles. The NEAR spacecraft passed within 1225 km of the asteroid 253 Mathilde, a C-type carbon-rich asteroid, on its trip to Eros and acquired images and determined its mass to an accuracy of ~5%. After a year of orbiting Eros, the spacecraft croshed on the asteroid’s surface in February 2001, after transmitting close-up images of the surface during its final descent.


Image source: http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/mission/near/near_eros.html.