Dawn moves closer to the asteroid belt

September 12, 2007

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has been positioned at Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 17B atop a Delta II rocket for its launch from Florida later this month.

The spacecraft was moved to the launch pad Tuesday in preparation for its more than 3.2 billion-mile odyssey into the heart of the asteroid belt. The launch window opens Sept. 26.

"From here, the only way to go is up," said Dawn project manager Keyur Patel of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Dawn's goal is to characterize the cosmology of the solar system's earliest epoch 4.5 billion years ago by investigating the massive asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres, both of which are in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Scientists theorize Vesta and Ceres were budding planets that followed different evolutionary paths during the solar system's first few million years. By investigating two diverse asteroids during its eight-year flight, the Dawn mission is expected to resolve some of the mysteries of planetary formation.

Dawn is designed to be the first spacecraft to orbit an object in the asteroid belt and the first to orbit two bodies after leaving Earth.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International

Explore further: Dawn starts steep descent to most dazzling orbit of Ceres

Related Stories

Dawn starts steep descent to most dazzling orbit of Ceres

October 30, 2015

The most dazzling views ever seen of dwarf planet Ceres and its mysterious bright spots are what's on tap by year's end as NASA's amazing Dawn spacecraft starts a gradual but steep descent over the next two months to its ...

Ion propulsion—the key to deep space exploration

November 4, 2015

When we think of space travel, we tend to picture a massive rocket blasting off from Earth, with huge blast streams of fire and smoke coming out the bottom, as the enormous machine struggles to escape Earth's gravity. Rockets ...

Swift spacecraft spots its thousandth gamma-ray burst

November 6, 2015

NASA's Swift spacecraft has detected its 1,000th gamma-ray burst (GRB). GRBs are the most powerful explosions in the universe, typically associated with the collapse of a massive star and the birth of a black hole.

What are asteroids?

September 10, 2015

4.6 billion years ago, our solar system formed from a collection of gas and dust surrounding our nascent sun. While much of the gas and dust in this protoplanetary disk coalesced to form the planets, some of the debris was ...

A mission to a metal world—The Psyche mission

October 9, 2015

In their drive to set exploration goals for the future, NASA's Discovery Program put out the call for proposals for their thirteenth Discovery mission in February 2014. After reviewing the 27 initial proposals, a panel of ...

Recommended for you

Earth might have hairy dark matter

November 23, 2015

The solar system might be a lot hairier than we thought. A new study publishing this week in the Astrophysical Journal by Gary Prézeau of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, proposes the existence of ...

Scientists detect stellar streams around Magellanic Clouds

November 23, 2015

(Phys.org)—Astronomers from the University of Cambridge, U.K., have detected a number of narrow streams and diffuse debris clouds around two nearby irregular dwarf galaxies called the Magellanic Clouds. The research also ...

The hottest white dwarf in the Galaxy

November 25, 2015

Astronomers at the Universities of Tübingen and Potsdam have identified the hottest white dwarf ever discovered in our Galaxy. With a temperature of 250,000 degrees Celsius, this dying star at the outskirts of the Milky ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.