Dawn spacecraft beams back new images of asteroid

LOS ANGELES (AP) ? NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is sending back the most close-up images of the asteroid Vesta since it slipped into orbit around the giant space rock last summer.

The space agency released detailed pictures Wednesday showing numerous small impact craters and grooves. The pictures were taken from an average altitude of 130 miles above the surface.

Dawn will spend the next 10 weeks at that altitude before moving higher again.

Dawn is powered by ion propulsion instead of rocket fuel. It began orbiting Vesta in July after a 1.7 billion-mile cruise. After studying Vesta, Dawn will fly to an even bigger asteroid, Ceres, where it will arrive in 2015.