In the wikipedia article about NEAR Shoemaker it is mentioned that the craft stopped operating under these conditions:

At 7 p.m. EST on February 28, 2001 the last data signals were received from NEAR Shoemaker before it was shut down. A final attempt to communicate with the spacecraft on December 10, 2002 was unsuccessful. This was likely due to the extreme -279 °F (-173 °C, 100 K) conditions the probe experienced while on Eros.[6]

I could understand the lack of sunlight during the Eros night being a contributing factor, but that is not mentioned specifically. Are the conditions near an asteroid much harsher for spacecraft than interplanetary space?

  • $\begingroup$ Please try to avoid introducing new tags that are too specific or have almost no overlap with existing questions. $\endgroup$
    – Qmechanic
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ Also, FYI, you're right that Astronomy.SE has been absorbed into this site so this is the correct place for astronomy questions. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 19:53

1 Answer 1


A spacecraft in space should only lose heat by radiation to space, since it's not in direct contact with anything.

NEAR Shoemaker actually soft-landed on the surface of Eros. After the landing, its contact with the surface meant that it would lose heat by direct conduction, making it more difficult to maintain the temperature necessary for operation.

Conditions near an asteroid probably wouldn't be a problem, except for the lack of sunlight that you mentioned.

Disclaimer: I don't know how much of the spacecraft was in contact with the surface, or how much heat it would have lost through the contact area. This is largely speculation.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. I suppose that you meant conduction, not induction, and I suppose that is possible. I know that lying on cold ground sure makes me cold. Thanks. $\endgroup$
    – dotancohen
    Commented May 13, 2012 at 21:28

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