NEAR is moving in for a closer look at Eros, after a
short engine burn Feb. 24 set the spacecraft on a
gradual descent into a tighter orbit around the
asteroid. The maneuver, the first of several orbit
adjustments planned during NEAR’s yearlong study of
Eros, put NEAR on course to begin a 124-mile
(200-kilometer) orbit on March 3.

NEAR is about 225 miles (364 kilometers) from Eros, and
since entering orbit on Feb. 14 has sent back stunning
images and critical data on the asteroid’s surface and
geology. This week the NEAR team flips the “on” switch
for two more scientific instruments: the X-Ray/Gamma Ray
Spectrometer and the Laser Rangefinder. Through the
course of the mission, the laser scans will help
determine Eros’ exact shape, while the spectrometer will
measure the asteroid’s chemical elements.