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This Day in History

World History

Monday, February 12, 2001. :   The first ever descent of a spacecraft onto an asteroid occurs.

     The Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous - Shoemaker (NEAR Shoemaker), renamed after its launch in honor of planetary scientist Eugene M Shoemaker, was an unmanned spacecraft designed to study the near-Earth asteroid Eros from close orbit over a period of a year. Launched on February 17 1996, it was the first spacecraft to go into orbit around an asteroid. Software problems prevented the spacecraft from completing the first of four scheduled rendezvous burns, which would allow its approach and eventual descent to the asteroid. The remainder of the mission was completed successfully, and the NEAR-Shoemaker achieved touchdown on Eros's surface on 12 February 2001 at 3:01pm EST. Much data was collected before the spacecraft was shut down upon completion of its mission. At 7pm EST on 28 February 2001 the last data signals were received from NEAR-Shoemaker before it was shut down.

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