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NEAR Orbit Insertion

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distance between NEAR and 433 ErosFebruary 14, 2000 -- At 11:00 a.m. Eastern time, navigation data from the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous spacecraft indicates NEAR has achieved orbit around asteroid 433 Eros.

At 10:33 a.m., with Eros about 203 miles (327 kilometers) below, NEAR's small hydrazine thrusters fired for 57 seconds, slowing the spacecraft's approach to walking speed and easing it into the asteroid's weak gravitational pull. The rendezvous took place about 160 million miles (256 million kilometers) from Earth.

Right: Just in time for its Valentine's Day date with 433 Eros, the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft snapped this photo during its approach to the 21-mile-long space rock. Taken Feb. 11, 2000, from 1,609 miles (2590 kilometers) away, the picture reveals a heart-shaped depression about 3 miles (5 kilometers) long. Scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory - which manages the NASA mission -processed the image on Feb. 12. Photos taken from closer in during the next few days will help the NEAR team unravel the mystery of this shadowy feature.

"NEAR is now the first spacecraft to successfully lock into orbit around an asteroid," says Mission Director Dr. Robert Farquhar, from the NEAR Mission Operations Center at the Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. "We're making history here today."

Over the next 24 hours, instrument data and pictures of the asteroid taken after the orbit insertion burn will provide more details about NEAR's precise position around Eros. The first orbit images from NEAR are expected this afternoon.

For more information about the NEAR mission, see the recent SpaceScience.com headline "Eros or Bust" and the NEAR Mission Home Page from Johns Hopkins University.

Parents and Educators: Please visit Thursday's Classroom for lesson plans and activities related to this story.

The NEAR (Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous) mission, a NASA Discovery Program being conducted by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, MD, is the first mission to orbit an asteroid.

Web Links

Eros or Bust - February 8, 2000. NASA Science News. NASA's Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous Mission is nearing 433 Eros. It is scheduled to go into orbit around the space rock on Valentines Day, 2000. University

Guess Who's Coming to Breakfast? - February 13, 2000. NASA Science News. Critical science observations of Eros are scheduled to begin 11 hours before NEAR's orbit insertion on Valentines Day, 2000.

Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission - NEAR home page from Johns Hopkins University

NEAR Science Update, Jan. 24, 2000 - much of the material for this story was drawn from this source.

NASA Press Release - 8 Feb. 2000