Dawn Rescheduled for September Launch

Jul 08, 2007
Dawn Rescheduled for September Launch
Dawn Spacecraft.

The launch of NASA's Dawn spacecraft, a mission that will explore the two largest objects in the asteroid belt in an effort to answer questions about the formation of our solar system, has been rescheduled to September.

The decision was made Saturday to move the launch to September after careful review by NASA's Science Mission Directorate officials, working with Dawn mission managers, the Dawn principal investigator, and with the concurrence of the NASA Administrator.

Primary reasons for the move were a combination of highly limited launch opportunities for Dawn in July and the potential impact to launch preparations for the upcoming Phoenix Mars Lander mission, set for early August. A September launch for Dawn maintains all of the science mission goals a July launch would have provided.

NASA will hold a news briefing on Monday, July 9, to preview the launch of the Phoenix Mars Lander.

During its nearly decade-long mission, the Dawn mission will study the asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres, celestial bodies believed to have accreted early in the history of the solar system. The mission will characterize the early solar system and the processes that dominated its formation.

During the earliest epochs of our solar system, the materials in the solar nebula varied with their distance from the sun. As this distance increased, the temperature dropped, with terrestrial bodies forming closer to the sun, and icy bodies forming farther away.

The asteroid Vesta and the recently categorized dwarf planet Ceres have been selected because, while both speak to conditions and processes early in the formation of the solar system, they developed into two different kinds of bodies. Vesta is a dry, differentiated object with a surface that shows signs of resurfacing. It resembles the rocky bodies of the inner solar system, including Earth. Ceres, by contrast, has a primitive surface containing water-bearing minerals, and may possess a weak atmosphere. It appears to have many similarities to the large icy moons of the outer solar system.

By studying both these two distinct bodies with the same complement of instruments on the same spacecraft, the Dawn mission hopes to compare the different evolutionary path each took as well as create a picture of the early solar system overall. Data returned from the Dawn spacecraft could provide opportunities for significant breakthroughs in our knowledge of how the solar system formed.

To carry out its scientific mission, the Dawn spacecraft will carry three science instruments whose data will be used in combination to characterize these bodies. These instruments consist of a visible camera, a visible and infrared mapping spectrometer, and a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer. In addition to these instruments, radiometric and optical navigation data will provide data relating to the gravity field and thus bulk properties and internal structure of the two bodies.

Source: NASA

Explore further: Life 'not as we know it' possible on Saturn's moon Titan

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Bright spot' on Ceres has dimmer companion

13 hours ago

Dwarf planet Ceres continues to puzzle scientists as NASA's Dawn spacecraft gets closer to being captured into orbit around the object. The latest images from Dawn, taken nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers) ...

A recipe for returning Pluto to full planethood

Feb 20, 2015

A storm is brewing, a battle of words and a war of the worlds. The Earth is not at risk. It is mostly a civil dispute, but it has the potential to influence the path of careers. In 2014, a Harvard led debate ...

Dawn captures sharper images of Ceres

Feb 17, 2015

Craters and mysterious bright spots are beginning to pop out in the latest images of Ceres from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. These images, taken Feb. 12 at a distance of 52,000 miles (83,000 kilometers) from the ...

The solar system's 'yearbook' is about to get filled in

Feb 03, 2015

Lined up like familiar faces in your high school yearbook, here are images of the 33 largest objects in the Solar System, ordered in size by mean radius. Engineer Radu Stoicescu put this great graphic together, ...

Recommended for you

Study of atmospheric 'froth' may help GPS communications

Feb 27, 2015

When you don't know how to get to an unfamiliar place, you probably rely on a smart phone or other device with a Global Positioning System (GPS) module for guidance. You may not realize that, especially at ...

SMAP satellite extends 5-meter reflector boom

Feb 27, 2015

Like a cowboy at a rodeo, NASA's newest Earth-observing satellite, the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP), has triumphantly raised its "arm" and unfurled a huge golden "lasso" (antenna) that it will soon ...

User comments : 0

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.