NASA’s NEAR-Shoemaker unmanned spacecraft, still on the surface of asteroid 433 Eros, sends its final signals to Earth before shutting down. Launched in 1996, NEAR-Shoemaker swung by asteroid 253 Mathilde before making its way to Eros via an Earth gravity assist maneuver. It orbited Eros for a year, having started its operations in close proximity to the asteroid a year later due to a technical problem in 1998 that nearly destroyed the space probe. Future asteroid missions such as Hayabusa and Dawn will refine the science of traveling to and studying asteroids.
NEAR-Shoemaker signing off
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