When a NASA spacecraft goes into orbit around a new world for the first time, the control room is usually packed to capacity with scientists, engineers, and dignitaries ready to leap and shout when the retro-rockets fire. It’s a big, noisy event.
The 15th July 2011, was one of those days. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft approached Vesta and became the first probe from Earth to orbit a main belt asteroid.
Dawn’s cameras revealed a desolate world of transcendent beauty, thrilling everyone who worked on the project.Needless to say, the control room was …. silent?
Using its framing camera, Dawn obtained this image of Vesta on 24th July, 2011, from a distance of about 3,200 miles (5,200 kilometers). The three vertically-aligned craters on the left have been nicknamed “the snowman” by camera team members.