NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which launched in 2007, entered orbit around the asteroid Vesta July 16, the U.S. space agency said in a press release.
Vesta is located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. NASA’s plan is for Dawn to orbit Vesta for about a year, then jet over to the dwarf planet Ceres — the largest object in the asteroid belt. If Vesta manages to enter Ceres’ orbit next year, it will become the first spacecraft to “orbit two solar system destinations beyond Earth,” according to the agency.
Dawn was designed and built by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va. The project was managed out of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The University of California, Los Angeles, is responsible for overall Dawn mission science.