A NASA space probe launched in 1996 February to the asteroid Eros. Originally known as Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR), it was renamed NEAR Shoemaker after entering orbit around Eros in honour of E. Shoemaker. On the way to Eros it passed and photographed (253) Mathilde, a C-class (carbonaceous) asteroid, at a distance of under 1200 km in 1997 June, and underwent an Earth gravity-assist in 1998 January. The spacecraft flew past Eros at a distance of 3827 km in 1998 December. After making one orbit of the Sun, the spacecraft re-encountered Eros and went into orbit around it in 2000 February, photographing its surface in detail and studying it with an X-ray/gamma-ray spectrometer, a near-infrared imaging spectrograph, a laser rangefinder, and a magnetometer. The mission ended when NEAR Shoemaker made a low-speed descent to the surface in 2001 February, continuing to transmit data for over two weeks. It was the first of NASA's Discovery class of low-cost missions.
http://near.jhuapl.edu/ Official mission website.
Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics.