PASADENA, Calif., Aug. 12 (UPI) — NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has entered the first of four planned science orbits during the craft’s year-long visit to the asteroid Vesta, the space agency said.
Dawn started making detailed observations Thursday at 12:13 p.m. EDT, marking the official start of the first science-collecting orbit phase at Vesta, also known as the survey orbit, a release from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said.
Survey orbit — the first and highest orbit, at a distance of about 1,700 miles above Vesta’s surface — will provide an overview or “big picture” perspective of the giant 328-mile-diameter asteroid.
The survey phase is planned to last 20 days, with Dawn making seven three-day orbits of the asteroid.
After that Dawn will thrust itself into a closer orbit, known as High Altitude Mapping Orbit in late September.