This image of Eros, taken from the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft on May 1, 2000, is among the first to be returned from "low orbit." Between May and August, the spacecraft will orbit at altitudes near 50 kilometers (31 miles) or less. This will be the prime period of activity for some of the spacecraft's science instruments. The X-ray / gamma-ray spectrometer will build up maps of chemical abundances, while the laser rangefinder measures the shape of Eros to within meters (a few feet). At the same time the magnetometer will watch for indications of Eros' magnetic field and the near-infrared spectrometer will map rock types.
The imager will take pictures of the entire surface of Eros that capture features as small as 4 meters (13 feet) across. This particular image, taken from an orbital altitude of 53 kilometers (33 miles), shows a scene about 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) across. Numerous craters and boulders as small as 8 meters (26 feet) across dot the landscape. The large, rectangular boulder at the upper right is 45 meters (148 feet) across.
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.