Dawn Probe Enters Asteroid Vespa’s Orbit

Nasa’s probe Dawn, having traveled through space for four years has finally reached the first of its two planned destinations.

Vespa, a large, peculiar shaped asteroid in the rocky belt between Mars and Jupiter is being investigated by Nasa in hopes to gain a greater understanding of our Solar System’s earliest stages.  The mission also serves as a necessary first step to the realization of one day visiting an Asteroid–a goal set by the U.S. President to be achieved by no later than 2025.

Vespa is an odd looking fellow–shaped like a football after what is believed to have been a nasty collision knocking off its south polar region. Though abnormal in its form, it stands large enough to have its own gravitational pull.  The exact strength of its gravity is unknown,  however Dawn should help clean that uncertainty up very soon.  In fact, Dawn will need that gravitational information to help the probe traverse to its second destination–the “dwarf planet” Ceres.

The accomplishment of orbiting an Asteroid is truly a remarkable feat–the first time in the history of the space program as a matter of fact.

The probe will be approaching the Asteroid at closer and closer distances throughout its mission–eventually reaching its plateau of hopefully 200km from the surface.

The benefits of Dawn’s mission are astronomical.  The two inter-planetary bodies are unique insofar as they represent fossilized embryos of our early Solar System.  Their make-up, postulated to consist of water and potassium, could provide geological evidence for the world’s scientists to build upon.  The conclusions of the mission could also help solidify varying astronomers’ beliefs of the early stages in earth’s development, as well as expand the knowledge of planet formation in general.






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