The team that landed the first spacecraft on an asteroid was honored last
night at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum with
one of the museum’s most distinguished awards, the Trophy for Current

The museum presented the award for outstanding achievement in scientific
or technological endeavors relating to air and space to NASA’s Near
Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission team, which conducted the most
comprehensive study of an asteroid to date. Managed by The Johns Hopkins
University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Md., the mission
grabbed worldwide attention during a controlled descent to the surface
of asteroid Eros on Feb. 12, 2001.

"The NEAR mission accomplished a significant number of important space
firsts and it’s gratifying to have the Smithsonian recognize the team
with such a prestigious award," says APL’s Robert W. Farquhar, NEAR
mission director, who accepted the trophy. "The mission’s accomplishments
would not have been possible were it not for an incredible team effort
by many institutions who are proud to share this honor."

The NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft, launched in 1996, traveled more than two
billion miles before being placed in orbit around Eros in February 2000.
It circled the asteroid for a year, dipping at times to within three
miles (5.3 kilometers) of the potato-shaped asteroid’s ends and
returning more than 10 times the data expected over the program’s
lifetime. The mission was full of surprises including a soft landing by
the spacecraft, which was designed only as an orbiter, and the craft’s
ability to return valuable information from the asteroid’s surface for
two weeks after touchdown.

Data obtained during the mission is still providing an abundance of
information to asteroid and comet researchers. NEAR Shoemaker, the 55th
spacecraft built by the Applied Physics Laboratory, remains on the
surface of Eros in hibernation.

The NEAR team shared the spotlight last night with aviator/astronaut
John Glenn, who was honored with the Institution’s Lifetime Achievement

For more details on the NEAR mission visit Web site

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a division of The Johns Hopkins
University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative
application of science and technology. For information, visit