This mosaic of six images shows the very irregular shape of the asteroid Eros. In February 2000, the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft became the first spacecraft to go into orbit around an asteroid. Shortly after entering orbit, the spacecraft name was designated NEAR Shoemaker, in honor of Eugene Shoemaker, a prominent planetary scientist who was very active in studying asteroids. This spectacular view, looking obliquely down on the north polar region of the potato-shaped asteroid, shows impact craters across the surface of Eros. A 5.3-kilometer (3.3-mile)-diameter crater is partially visible along the termination (the line between sunlit and shadowed surfaces) in the saddle between the two ends along the 33-kilometer (20-mile)-long axis of the asteroid. In February 2001, NEAR Shoemaker became the first spacecraft to soft-land on an asteroid at the end of its mission.
NEAR Press Release PIA02923.