NASA Spacecraft Enters Large Asteroid's Orbit on July 15

NASA's Dawn spacecraft, illustrated in this artist's concept, is propelled by ion engines.On July 15, NASA’s ion-propelled Dawn probe became the first spacecraft to enter orbit around a main-belt asteroid.  Dawn will orbit Vesta for one Earth-year, studying the giant space rock at close range to help scientists understand the earliest chapter of our solar system’s history.

Dawn will depart Vesta for its second destination, the dwarf planet Ceres, in July 2012. The spacecraft will be the first to orbit two bodies in our solar system.

Science@NASA Editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | For more information: Science@NASA