(ORDO NEWS) — On February 12, 2001, the NEAR Shoemaker space probe landed on the surface of the asteroid Eros.
The landing is no doubt soft: the 800-kilogram probe is not equipped with landing gear, but nevertheless, thanks to the skill of ground operators, it managed to land at a speed of only 1.9 m / s.
The device completely retained its functionality: all the equipment on board worked, even the solar panels worked. Unfortunately, it is impossible to take pictures while on the surface (and most of the NEAR Shoemaker instruments are designed for remote research), but the data that was accumulated by the probe during rendezvous and landing were gradually transferred to Earth for processing.
With their help, scientists obtained detailed information about the surface of the asteroid and, in particular, clarified the issue of an unusual erosion process (it was believed that there were no craters on the asteroid smaller than a few meters in diameter, but shooting at close range showed that they still exist, but – covered with fine dust; where it came from is still unclear).
As it turned out, after landing, there was still fuel left in the tanks, and for the first day the control center considered the possibility of taking off the probe from Eros, but this idea was rejected. Unfortunately, the mission time is limited for financial reasons.
At the end of February, Shoemaker was disconnected from the Deep Space Network radio telescope network. The project budget did not provide for such protracted maneuvers, it was assumed that the probe, having completed the study of the asteroid, would die upon colliding with it.
In addition, it was originally planned to reach Eros in 1998, but a software error forced the rendezvous with the asteroid to be postponed.
One way or another, the five-year-long NEAR Shoemaker expedition was in many ways a historic event. Eros is only the fourth celestial body (and the first asteroid) that a spacecraft has managed to land on.
Unfortunately, the probe will not be able to deliver samples of the substance of Eros to Earth (it is assumed that the study of the rocks that make up asteroids will help solve many mysteries of the early stage of the evolution of the solar system).
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