No Astronauts, but We're Orbiting an Asteroid -- PICTURES
September 16, 2011 | 4:36 p.m.
NASA's human space-flight program may be in a lull, but NASA spacecraft are still exploring, and will be exploring, the solar system.
One of these spacecraft, Dawn, reached its first destination in July when it entered into orbit around one of the largest known asteroids, Vesta. In July 2012, it will leave Vesta's orbit and head to Ceres, a dwarf planet.
Dawn's mission is to help researchers learn more about the beginnings of the solar system by examining in detail the two largest protoplanets that have survived since the beginning of the system.
Below is a video of Dawn's orbit around Vesta and some its initial photos as it approached and began orbiting the asteroid: