NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft Now Orbiting an Asteroid
| by Rossi Fernandes |
Update (20th July 2011):
NASA has now started receiving the first high-resolution images from the Dawn probe. You can find some of the images here. At this point, the probe is just 9,900 miles from the Vesta asteroid. Vesta, the asteroid is some 550km in diameter and is the second largest body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The probe travelled for four years at a speed of 4.2 miles per second before reaching the Vesta asteroid.
NASA has been sending crafts into space for a while now, but for the first time ever, they have a craft orbiting an asteroid in the asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter. This weekend, NASA’s craft Dawn, entered orbit of an asteroid called Vesta. This is the first stop for Dawn. After spending a year around Dawn, it will slingshot itself to another space body, Ceres, an asteroid but one that’s considered to be a dwarf planet.
Next stop, Ceres
NASA has a lot of backing from the Obama government. There have been instructions to land a man on an asteroid by 2025. Dawn was launched in September 2007, and it has taken the craft this long to reach the asteroid belt. Getting into Vesta’s orbit was a challenge by itself. Getting a lock onto Vesta depends on the exact mass and gravitational pull of the asteroid. As this information wasn’t known, some assumptions might have to be made. If the gravitational pull of Vesta was strong, the craft orbit would’ve entered orbit quicker and if it wasn’t weaker, it might have taken longer. Now that Dawn is in orbit of the asteroid, scientists of the NASA Dawn team will take measurements and calculate more information on its gravity.
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