Sunday, July 17, 2011

Spacecraft Dawn Achieves Orbit Around Protoplanet!

Dawn has finally made it to asteroid/protoplanet/minor-planet 4 Vesta, after a four-year wait from NASA. It has become the first spacecraft to ever enter the orbit of an object between Mars and Jupiter. Although you may not think this to be such a important event, it is! We have waited so long for Dawn to arrive at Vesta, which will stay for one year. In July 2012, Dawn will gte out of Vesta's orbit and soar towards Ceres, another minor planet in the asteroid belt, where it will reach the planet in approximately 2016.

Vesta on July 9 by NASA's Dawn

"Today, we celebrate an incredible exploration milestone as a spacecraft enters orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt for the first time," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "Dawn's study of the asteroid Vesta marks a major scientific accomplishment and also points the way to the future destinations where people will travel in the coming years. President Obama has directed NASA to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025, and Dawn is gathering crucial data that will inform that mission."

"It has taken nearly four years to get to this point," said Robert Mase, manager of the $466 million project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. But, what will Dawn do? NASA answered that simply: "Dawn's science instrument suite will measure surface composition, topography and texture. In addition, the Dawn spacecraft will measure the tug of gravity from Vesta and Ceres to learn more about their internal structures."

The US spacecraft Dawn has entered the orbit of Vesta, one of the largest asteroids in the solar system, the US space agency announced early Sunday
The famous lauch of Dawn on the Detla II spacecraft
Congratulations Dawn! You have achieved orbit!

Dawn mission patch

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