NEAR Shoemaker's Closest Approach
October 27, 2009
On October 25-26, 2000, NEAR Shoemaker will swoop out of a 50-kilometer (31-mile) orbit and pass low over Eros' surface during the closest flyby of a planetary body ever made by a spacecraft. This diagram shows how events will unfold during the 20-hour period including the "low-altitude flyover." A maneuver on October 25 will place the spacecraft in an elliptical orbit with a low point only 21 kilometers (13 miles) above the center of Eros. The closest approach comes (as illustrated here) when the asteroid's rotation under the spacecraft causes NEAR Shoemaker to pass about 5.3 kilometers (about 3.3 miles) above an end of the elongated body. The closest approach photos will show features as small as 0.7 meters (2 feet) across - unprecedented detail in pictures taken from a spacecraft that hasn't actually landed. Another maneuver October 26 will put the spacecraft on course for a month in a 200-kilometer (124-mile) orbit optimized for near-global color mapping.
Topics: Environment, Discovery program, NEAR Shoemaker, Spaceflight, Disaster Accident, Aerobraking, Astrodynamics, MESSENGER, 433 Eros, Spacecraft propulsion, Spacecraft