NASA's Dawn spacecraft has become the first mission to achieve orbit around a dwarf planet. The spacecraft was approximately 38,000 miles (61,000 kilometers) from Ceres when it was captured by the dwarf planet's gravity at about 4:39 a.m. PST (7:39 a.m. EST) / 12:39 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) Friday.
Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California received a signal from the spacecraft at 5:36 a.m. PST (8:36 a.m. EST) / 13:36 UTC that Dawn was healthy and thrusting with its ion engine, the indicator Dawn had entered orbit as planned.
"Since its discovery in 1801, Ceres was known as a planet, then an asteroid and later a dwarf planet," said Marc Rayman, Dawn chief engineer and mission director at JPL. "Now, after a journey of 3.1 billion miles (4.9 billion kilometers) and 7.5 years, Dawn calls Ceres, home."
In addition to being the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet, Dawn also has the distinction of being the first mission to orbit two extraterrestrial targets. From 2011 to 2012, the space-craft explored the giant asteroid Vesta, delivering new insights and thousands of images from that distant world. Ceres and Vesta are the two most massive residents of our solar system's main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
More - Link >>> http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=4503&utm_source=iContact&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NASAJPL&utm_content=dawn150306
Source: NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Related Blog Posts ---
Dawn Spacecraft Reveals Secrets of Giant Asteroid Vesta (2012 April 25):
Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2012/04/dawn-spacecraft-reveals-secrets-of.html
Dawn Soars Over Asteroid Vesta in 3-D (2011 Dec. 2):
Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2011/12/dawn-soars-over-asteroid-vesta-in-3-d.html
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