As the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft descends into lower orbits around Eros, it continually returns higher spatial resolution images of the asteroid. The true color image at left was taken February 12, 2000, from a range of 1,748 kilometers (1,083 miles), and shows details only as small as 180 meters (590 feet) across. It was taken two days before orbit insertion, as part of an image sequence designed to provide moderate-resolution color mapping of Eros at a near-constant viewing geometry. The true color image inset at right was taken February 29 from a range of 283 kilometers (175 miles) and shows much smaller details only 27 meters (89 feet) across. The higher spatial resolution (by a factor of six) brings out a whole class of surface details that were either invisible or at the margin of visibility in the earlier images. For example, the bright material on the wall of the large crater in the inset image is barely evident in the lower-resolution image at left, but by virtue of its limited spatial coverage the inset image lacks information on the crater's regional geologic setting. NEAR Shoemaker's imaging strategy makes use of both types of images, with lower-resolution images providing "context" for higher-resolution images that bring specific features into sharper focus.
Built and managed by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, NEAR was the first spacecraft launched in NASA's Discovery Program of low-cost, small-scale planetary missions. See the NEAR web page at http://near.jhuapl.edu/ for more details.