NEAR Shoemakers Path
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NEAR Shoemaker's Path

October 28, 2009
This plot shows NEAR Shoemaker's projected path from orbit to the surface of Eros on Feb. 12. Viewed from the sun, Eros is moving in a clockwise direction as it spins on its axis, while the spacecraft moves counterclockwise in a circular orbit 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the asteroid's center. The pair will be about 316 million kilometers (196 million miles) from Earth.

NEAR Shoemaker will de-orbit with a short engine burn at 10:31 a.m. EST, about 4 ½ hours before it's scheduled to reach the surface. The final leg of the controlled descent begins with the spacecraft about 5 kilometers (3 miles) above Eros; it will then execute an unprecedented series of four engine burns designed to slow its descent from about 20 mph to about 5 mph. NEAR Shoemaker is expected to touch down in an area bordering Himeros, the asteroid's distinctive saddle-shaped depression, after providing the highest-resolution images ever taken of Eros' boulder-strewn, cratered terrain.

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