On Saturday, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft arrived at the 330 mile wide asteroid, Vesta. It’s the first space probe to orbit a protoplanet in the asteroid belt.
Dawn will conduct a year-long study of Vesta where NASA hopes to gain an understanding of the origins and earliest conditions of the solar system. The research will also help determine why Vesta is the brightest asteroid in the solar system.
NASA chief, Charles Bolden said, “Dawn’s study of the asteroid Vesta marks a major scientific accomplishment and also points the way to the future destinations where people will travel in the coming years. President Obama has directed NASA to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025, and Dawn is gathering crucial data that will inform that mission.”
Dawn will then visit the dwarf planet Ceres (arriving in 2015).
Here’s an infographic detailing Dawn’s mission:
Image Credit: Space.com: http://www.space.com/12279-nasa-dawn-asteroid-mission-works-infographic.html