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Monday, 12 February, 2001, 20:17 GMT
Nasa probe makes history
BBC Near-Shoemaker has landed
Eros landing: 'Faster, better, cheaper' success for Nasa
An unmanned American space agency (Nasa) spacecraft has landed on an asteroid called Eros, nearly 320 million kilometres (200 million miles) from Earth.

"I'm happy to report that the Near spacecraft has touched down on the surface of Eros," said mission controller Dr Robert Farquhar, in an update from the project's headquarters.

"This is the first time that any spacecraft has landed on a small body," he added.

The Near- (Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous) Shoemaker probe sent close-range pictures showing detail on the surface of the asteroid before it hit the surface.

Faster, better, cheaper

Scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory were delighted by the quality of the images, describing them as "unbelievable".

The landing ends a five-year journey by the craft, one of the first of Nasa's "faster, better, cheaper" missions.

Eros surface detail Nasa
Near-Shoemaker's camera showed clear surface detail
The Near mission has been a great success and the data sent back from the landing are seen by Nasa scientists as "bonus science".

Images from the spacecraft were broadcast live on the internet.

During its year-long orbit of the asteroid, Near transmitted some 160,000 images of the rocky surface.

Asteroids, material left over from the formation of the Solar System, are rocky and metallic objects that orbit the Sun but are too small to be considered planets.

Because asteroids are material from the very early Solar System, scientists are interested in their composition.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jane Warr
"The spacecraft landed right on schedule"
Nasa project team member, Ben Bussey
"We're absolutely thrilled, it went flawlessly"
Space analyst David Wade
"It has touched down perfectly"
See also:

12 Feb 01 | Sci/Tech
At a glance: Asteroid touchdown
12 Feb 01 | Sci/Tech
Probing the secrets of Eros
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