The Greatest Asteroid Encounters of All Time!

Asteroids are important building blocks of our solar system. When spacecraft study these small worlds, we learn more about how our neighborhood was formed — moons, planets and, of course, our own planet, Earth. A flurry of spacecraft have visited asteroids in recent decades to piece together the secrets of the solar system, and more such missions are launching soon.

Galileo is first to an asteroid!

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A closeup view of asteroid Gaspra from NASA's Galileo spacecraft, which flew by the asteroid on the way to Jupiter.

Gaspra (Image credit: NASA/JPL)
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Ida and its moonlet, Dactyl.

Ida and Dactyl (Image credit: NASA/JPL/USGS)
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An artist's depiction of the Galileo spacecraft.

An artist’s depiction of the Galileo spacecraft. (Image credit: NASA/JPL)

NASA’s Galileo spacecraft was the first to ever visit an asteroid and in fact flew by two space rocks. The mission launched on Oct. 18, 1989, from space shuttle Atlantis and arrived at Jupiter on Dec. 7, 1995, where Galileo spent eight years studying the largest planet in our solar system.

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