Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous
The Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission inaugurated NASA's Discovery Program. It was the first mission to orbit an asteroid and made the first comprehensive scientific measurements of an asteroid's surface composition, geology, physical properties, and internal structure. NEAR was launched successfully on 17 February 1996 aboard a Delta II-7925. It made the first reconnaissance of a C-type asteroid during its flyby of the main-belt asteroid 253 Mathilde in June 1997. It became the first spacecraft to enter orbit around an asteroid, doing so at the large near-Earth asteroid 433 Eros in February 2000. The spacecraft, renamed NEAR Shoemaker, landed on Eros at 37.2 South by 278.4 West, ending its mission on February 12, 2001 with another spacecraft first. NEAR obtained new information on the nature and evolution of asteroids, improved our understanding of planetary formation processes in the early solar system, andclarified the relationships between asteroids and meteorites.
The NEAR Mission Operations Center and Science Data Center were both located at APL. The latter maintained the entire NEAR data set on-line and made data from all instruments accessible over the Internet to every member of the NEAR science team. For adetailed description of the mission see [CHENGETAL1998].