NEAR-Shoemaker Unmanned Spaceflight

NEAR at Mathilde

NEARNASA’s NEAR (Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous) unmanned spacecraft closes to within 750 miles of its first target, asteroid 253 Mathilde. Taking over 500 pictures of the asteroid and determining its mass and dimensions (roughly 31 miles in diameter). At the time of this flyby, Mathilde is the largest asteroid to be explored by a spacecraft. Discovered in 1885, Mathilde takes four years to orbit the sun within the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. NEAR Shoemaker moves on to its next destination, asteroid 433 Eros, which it is expected to reach in 1998.