Washington: For the first time ever, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is set to enter an asteroid’s orbit on July 15.
It will begin a prolonged encounter with the asteroid Vesta, making the mission the first to enter orbit around a main-belt asteroid.
The main asteroid belt lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
Dawn will study Vesta for one year, and observations will help scientists understand the earliest chapter of our solar system’s history.
Engineers have been subtly shaping Dawn’s trajectory for years to match Vesta’s orbit around the Sun.
They expect the spacecraft to be captured into orbit at approximately 10 p.m. PDT Friday, July 15.
“It has taken nearly four years to get to this point,” said Robert
Mase, Dawn project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
“Our latest tests and check-outs show that Dawn is right on target and performing normally,” he said.
Launched in September 2007, Dawn will depart for its second destination, the dwarf planet Ceres, in July 2012.