NEAR Shoemaker’s global mapping mission – and last long-distance orbit
around Eros – ended Dec. 7 with an engine burst that moved the spacecraft
several miles closer to the rotating asteroid.

The two-minute maneuver, monitored simultaneously by the NEAR mission
operations and navigation teams at the Applied Physics Laboratory in
Maryland and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, pushed NEAR
Shoemaker from a 124-mile (200-kilometer) vantage point into position to
start a circular, 22-mile (35-kilometer) orbit on Dec. 13. The spacecraft
will stay at that lower orbit – designed mostly for X-Ray/Gamma-Ray
Spectrometer measurements of the asteroid’s surface elements – through
December and most of January 2001.

NEAR Shoemaker is currently 171 million miles (273 million kilometers) from
Earth, conducting the first close-up study of an asteroid. Its yearlong
orbit of Eros wraps up in February 2001.