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The Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) - Shoemaker spacecraft was launched in 1996 and in 2001 it landed on the asteroid Eros. The NEAR-Shoemaker captured the imagination of space exploration enthusiasts by making the first successful landing on an asteroid. Asteroids potentially have great benefit for the commercialization of space exploration. They also represent a unique opportunity to study the chemical makeup of bodies in the inner solar system.
Continuing the tradition of LEGO models celebrating important spacecraft, this 480 piece model displays the NEAR-Shoemaker placed precariously on the surface of Eros. While there, the craft spent 10 days collecting data on the composition of Eros. Originally, the spacecraft was not expected to survive the landing, however, NASA scientists were surprised to find the instruments operational after the landing.
Hopefully, humans will continue to explore the asteroid belt bodies as well as the rest of the solar system. Models such as this are important to stimulate the imagination of children and adults who may one day be space exploration scientists themselves!