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Discovery Station unveils NEAR spacecraft exhibit

June 30, 2006

The opening ceremony for the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) Shoemaker spacecraft exhibit at Discovery Station at Hagerstown will be today at 11 a.m.

Discovery Station and Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) are coordinating the first of a year-round continuing exhibit opening at the museum with a one-quarter scale model of the spacecraft.

The spacecraft was launched Feb. 17, 1996, from Cape Canaveral, Fla., and was programmed to rendezvous Feb. 14, 2000, with asteroid 433 Eros. NEAR was to orbit Eros for a year, conducting scientific studies.

The spacecraft touched down on the 433 Eros asteroid on Feb. 12, 2001, and began sending data from the surface of Eros.

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As the first mission launched in NASA's Discovery Program, the NEAR mission set the stage for asteroidal exploration and formed a base of knowledge that will be the framework for future missions.

The spacecraft was designed and built by Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, which managed the mission for NASA. The NEAR mission was the first comprehensive study of the physical geology, composition and geophysics of an asteroid.

The NEAR Shoemaker was the first solar-powered spacecraft to fly beyond the orbit of Mars - a technical innovation in spacecraft design. It had the capacity to operate as far as 203 million miles from the sun.

The satellite was named NEAR Shoemaker to honor Dr. Eugene M. Shoemaker, the legendary geologist who influenced decades of research on the role of asteroids and comets in shaping the planets.

The Discovery Station spacecraft exhibit includes additional materials and interactive exhibits about space and weather.

For more information on the NEAR Mission, go to near.jhuapl.edu. For more information about Discovery Station at Hagerstown, go to www.discoverystation.org.

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