Monday, December 12, 2011

NASA's Dawn Spirals Down to Lowest Orbit

Dawn Orbiting Vesta This artist's concept shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft orbiting the giant asteroid Vesta. The depiction of Vesta is based on images obtained by Dawn's framing cameras. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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December 12, 2011
PASADENA, Calif. - NASA's Dawn spacecraft successfully maneuvered into its closest orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta today, beginning a new phase of science observations. The spacecraft is now circling Vesta at an altitude averaging about 130 miles (210 kilometers) in the phase of the mission known as low altitude mapping orbit.

"Dawn has performed some complicated and beautiful choreography in order to reach this lowest orbit," said Marc Rayman, Dawn chief engineer and mission manager based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We are in an excellent position to learn much more about the secrets of Vesta's surface and interior."


Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
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