NEAR-Shoemaker Unmanned Spaceflight

NEAR death experience?

NEARNASA’s unmanned NEAR (Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous) unmanned space probe fails to fire its thrusters for a critical engine burn to keep it aimed at asteroid 433 Eros. The vehicle instead goes into an automatic safe mode and enters a tumble that drains both its batteries and its fuel supply to dangerously low levels, and it is out of contact with Earth for over a day. As a result, NEAR merely flies past Eros at a distance of almost 2400 miles, leaving ground controllers to devise a strategy to re-aim NEAR so it can catch up to and try once again to orbit the asteroid (the primary objective of its mission). This maneuver will take a year to complete.