The Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous, or NEAR, was the first space probe to orbit and perform an in-depth investigation of an asteroid and then safely land on it.

The mission was designed to answer many fundamental questions about the nature and origin of asteroids, which are of great interest both because of their potential for colliding with Earth and for the clues they hold about the formation and evolution of small bodies, including the Earth.

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