NEAR Shoemaker Spaceflight

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This Demonstration shows an animation of the flight of the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft's mission to the asteroid (433) Eros. This spacecraft used a technique called gravitational assist with the Earth on January 23, 1998. It also made the flyby past the asteroid (253) Mathilde on June 27, 1997. The mission ended on February 12, 2001 with a direct impact on the asteroid Eros.


NEAR stands for Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous.

The orbits of planets have the following colors: Mercury: orange, Venus: brown, Earth: blue, Mars: red, Jupiter: brown. The orbit of the asteroid Eros is pink; the orbit of the asteroid Mathilde is cyan.


Contributed by: Tomas Franc (September 2013)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA



The time step is one day, positions are at midnight, and the speed is measured relative to the Sun. The origin is at the Sun with the positive axis pointing toward the vernal equinox.

Nothing here is modeled; all positions of the spacecraft and planets were obtained from NASA JPL. We thank NASA JPL for providing the data.

Unfortunately, the coordinates from the launch (February 17, 1996) to June 01, 1996 are not available on NASA JPL.

Information about the mission can be found on NASA's NEAR website.

More information about the gravitational assist can be found in [1]. A manual on how to create such an animation can be found in [2]. For more information, see the author's website.


[1] T. Franc, "The Gravitational Assist," in Week of Doctoral Students 2011—Proceedings of Contributed Papers: Part III—Physics (WDS 2011), Prague (J. Safrankova and J. Pavlu, eds.), Prague: MatfyzPress Publishing House, 2011 pp. 55–60. _Franc.pdf.

[2] T. Franc, "Gravitational Assisted Trajectories—Making Your Own Pictures and Trajectory Study," in Proceedings GIREP-EPEC Conference 2011, Physics Alive, Jyväskylä, Finland (A. Lindell, A. Kähkönen, and J. Viiri, eds.), Jyväskylä, Finland: University of Jyväskylä, 2011 pp. 202–207.

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