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NASA

Marooned Off Vesta 55

mcgrew writes with this quote from an AP report: "After four years sailing through space, the Dawn spacecraft was expected to slip into orbit late Friday around a giant asteroid to begin a yearlong investigation into the origins of the solar system. It is the first of two scheduled tour stops for the NASA probe that almost never made it to the launch pad. Because of its stunted growth, Vesta holds 'a record of the earliest history of the solar system,' said the mission's lead scientist Christopher Russell of the University of California, Los Angeles." Dawn's mission homepage has all the information and pictures collected so far. On July 9th, it snapped our best look to date at the ~530-kilometer-wide Vesta, from 40,000 kilometers away. When it arrives, it will take observations from successively lower orbits, the final one being only 460km above Vesta's surface. Next May, Dawn will break orbit and head to Ceres. (mcgrew adds, "The submission's title is a nod to Isaac Asimov. Lets hope Dawn doesn't get marooned!")

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