Preliminary indications show the NEAR spacecraft is on a
steady path to Eros, after a braking maneuver today
adjusted its approach speed and trajectory toward the
large asteroid.

At noon EST, NEAR’s medium-sized thrusters fired for 90
seconds and eased the spacecraft from 43 mph (relative
to Eros) to 18 mph. The maneuver also moves NEAR’s
trajectory about 60 miles (100 kilometers)
closer to its target.

The operation was a slightly modified version of the
rendezvous burn scheduled for Feb. 2, which was canceled
after NEAR went into “safe” hold early yesterday
morning. Mission operators at the Applied Physics
Laboratory sent new commands to NEAR late last night,
dividing the original Feb. 2 maneuver into two parts. A
second burn on Feb. 8 will bump NEAR’s approach speed to
22 mph and put it back on its original track to the

“We were able to come back right away and devise a
turnaround burn,” says NEAR Mission Director Bob
Farquhar. “It really shows the resiliency of the mission

All critical science operations – including a low-phase
flyby on Feb. 13 – remain on schedule. The flyby will
put NEAR directly between the sun and Eros, affording a
unique opportunity to map the asteroid’s minerals under
optimal lighting.

NEAR is now 5,047 miles (8,123 kilometers) away from
Eros, which it will reach and begin orbiting on
Valentine’s Day.