WASHINGTON (AP) Mission controllers, in history”s first attempt to land a spacecraft on an asteroid, hope to drop the NEAR Shoemaker craft to a soft landing on Eros, a barren space rock. The Feb. 12 maneuver will not be easy: The craft was not designed to land.

If all goes perfectly, the 1,100-pound craft will drop from its asteroid orbit and slide gently onto Eros” rocky surface, perhaps bouncing slightly before resting on its side.

If the landing maneuver should fail, officials said the NEAR could smash into Eros and be forever silent.

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