On 16 July NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will enter the orbit of Vesta – on track for the first extended visit to the large asteroid. The mission expects to begin gathering science data in early August. Vesta resides in the main asteroid belt and is thought to be the source of a large number of meteorites that fall to Earth. Read our previous post on Vesta here.
“We look forward to exploring this unknown world during Dawn’s 1-year stay in Vesta’s orbit.” said Robert Mase from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
Traveling for nearly 4 years and covering 1.7 billion miles, Dawn is to date about 96,000 miles away from Vesta and when the asteroid captures Dawn into its orbit on 16 July there will be approximately 9,900 miles between them and they will be approximately 117 million miles away from Earth.
We’ve packed our year at Vesta full of science observations to help us unravel the mysteries of Vesta,” said Carol Raymond from JPL. Vesta is considered a protoplanet, or body that never quite became a full-fledged planet.