Dawn spacecraft gets cozy with massive asteroid

By ALICIA CHANG | August 1, 2011 | 4:59 AM EDT

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Scientists are busy sifting through images of the massive asteroid Vesta taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft.

Dawn last month entered orbit around the 330-mile-wide rocky body and began beaming back close-ups of the cratered surface.

The probe will officially start collecting science data next week once it is 1,700 miles from the surface.

It will study Vesta for a year before moving on to a bigger asteroid Ceres.

The $466 million mission is managed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.