Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) – Shoemaker, embarked on a pioneering mission after its 1996 launch. This robotic space probe set its sights on the near-Earth asteroid Eros, seeking to unlock its secrets from close orbit over a year. On February 12, 2001, it made history by touching down on Eros, and although its mission was terminated just over two weeks later, the wealth of data it collected was invaluable.
The primary scientific objective of NEAR was to unveil Eros’s mysteries, probing its bulk properties, composition, mineralogy, morphology, internal mass distribution, and magnetic field. Secondary objectives included delving into regolith properties, solar wind interactions, possible signs of current activity such as dust or gas emissions, and the asteroid’s spin state. NEAR’s groundbreaking mission opened new frontiers in asteroid research and broadened our understanding of these celestial wanderers.