Space probe Dawn is the first spacecraft that entered into orbit around the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Dawn in a year will study the asteroid, named Vesta, and then, in July 2012, will go towards its next destination, the dwarf planet Ceres. The data transmitted by the station, will allow scientists to solve the mystery of the very early stage of development of our solar system. These data are also needed for future manned space missions.
"Today marks an incredible achievement - the first time a spacecraft went into orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt," - said the head of NASA, Charles Bolden. "This study not only the asteroid Vesta marks a major scientific achievement, but also paves the way for future manned flights in the coming years. President Obama gave the order to send NASA astronauts to an asteroid by 2025, and Dawn is busy collecting the necessary information on which plan will be developed this mission. "
The spacecraft transmitted information that confirms entry into the orbit of Vesta, but do not know the exact time of the event. Dawn at the time of entry into orbit depended on Vesta’s mass and its gravity, which were identified only recently. Mass of the asteroid determines the strength of its gravitational attraction. If the West was more massive, it would be gravity pulled Dawn faster. And if it were less massive, then gravity would act weaker and achieving orbit would take more time. Due to the fact that Dawn is in orbit, the team can make more accurate measurements of Vesta’s gravity on the basis composed of the timeline.
Dawn, launched into space in September 2007, will be the first spacecraft to orbit once visited the two objects in the solar system besides Earth. The mission to Vesta and Ceres carried out the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, on behalf of the Office of Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
University of California, Los Angeles took over the scientific part of the mission of Dawn. The company Orbital Sciences Corp. designed and built the spacecraft. In addition, the team includes the German Aerospace Centre, Institute for Solar System Research Max Planck, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute.