The name of NASA's spacecraft that is about to land on an asteroid named Eros.

The NEAR -- Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous -- Shoemaker spacecraft has been circling around the Eros asteroid since February 14, 2000.

The spacecraft was never meant to land, says NASA spokesperson Helen Worth and may not make it in one piece. "Chances are less than one per cent for it to land intact," she said. "Plus, all the instruments are on the bottom." Once the craft lands, it will stay there and NASA has no plans to retrieve it.

Pictures of the asteroid landing attempt will be shown live on NASA's Web site,

Thanx to for the quotes
Beating the odds and projections, the plucky little probe chirped its presence from the surface of Eros today, confirming that it had landed successfully. NASA believes that the probe is lying on its side in the south Polar region of the asteroid; the systems appear to be fine. The camera won't be of much use; even if it's aligned correctly, its minimum focal length is on the order of 600 meters.

In a wave of optimism, NASA scientists are apparently discussing whether or not to try to relaunch the probe from the surface. This would make Eros only the second heavenly body that humanity has managed a touch-and-go on (the Moon being the first, natch). It's the fifth body touched by a human craft, after the Moon, Mars, Venus and Jupiter.


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