This plot shows NEAR Shoemaker's projected path from orbit to the surface of Eros on Feb. 12. Viewed from the sun, Eros is moving in a clockwise direction as it spins on its axis, while the spacecraft moves counterclockwise in a circular orbit 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the asteroid's center. The pair will be about 316 million kilometers (196 million miles) from Earth.
NEAR Shoemaker will de-orbit with a short engine burn at 10:31 a.m. EST, about 4 ½ hours before it's scheduled to reach the surface. The final leg of the controlled descent begins with the spacecraft about 5 kilometers (3 miles) above Eros; it will then execute an unprecedented series of four engine burns designed to slow its descent from about 20 mph to about 5 mph. NEAR Shoemaker is expected to touch down in an area bordering Himeros, the asteroid's distinctive saddle-shaped depression, after providing the highest-resolution images ever taken of Eros' boulder-strewn, cratered terrain.
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.