Spacecraft Snaps Closeup Of Asteroid

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PASADENA, Calif., Aug. 1 (UPI) — NASA has released the first full-frame image of the asteroid Vesta taken by the spacecraft Dawn as it moves into the first of four intensive science orbits.

Dawn will enter an orbit around the 330-mile-diameter asteroid at a distance of 1,700 miles on Aug. 11 to begin an in-depth analysis of the asteroid, a NASA release said Monday.

The Dawn team has unveiled the first full-frame image of Vesta taken on July 24.

“Now that we are in orbit around one of the last unexplored worlds in the inner solar system, we can see that it’s a unique and fascinating place,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Vesta is the brightest object in the asteroid belt as seen from Earth.

“We have been calling Vesta the smallest terrestrial planet,” said Chris Russell, Dawn’s principal investigator at UCLA. “The latest imagery provides much justification for our expectations.

“They show that a variety of processes were once at work on the surface of Vesta and provide extensive evidence for Vesta’s planetary aspirations.”

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