Dawn moves closer to the asteroid belt

Sep 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: NASA deep-space rocket, SLS, to launch in 2018

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New study charts the global invasion of crop pests

4 hours ago

Many of the world's most important crop-producing countries will be fully saturated with pests by the middle of the century if current trends continue, according to a new study led by the University of Exeter.

Zambia lifts ban on safari hunting

6 hours ago

Zambia has lifted a 20-month ban on safari hunting because it has lost too much revenue, but lions and leopards will remain protected, the government said Wednesday.

Recommended for you

Light of life

12 hours ago

A fluorescent microscopic view of cells from a type of bone cancer, being studied for a future trip to deep space – aiming to sharpen our understanding of the hazardous radiation prevailing out there.

Local model better describes lunar gravity

18 hours ago

Two satellites orbiting the Moon as a part of NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission have been mapping its inner structure by measuring subtle shifts in the pull of gravity on the ...

User comments : 0