Start of dwarf planet mission delayed after small mix-up

Start of dwarf planet mission delayed after small mix-up
This photo from a sequence of images provided by NASA, taken from the Dawn spacecraft of Ceres, a dwarf planet located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. NASA said the start of science observations was slightly delayed because of a communication glitch. The space agency said the delay won't affect the overall mission. (NASA via AP)

NASA said Friday observations of a dwarf planet have been delayed slightly after a communication glitch.

The Dawn spacecraft circling dwarf planet Ceres was supposed to kick off its science campaign in the morning, but it didn't receive a command from ground controllers as expected.

Dawn briefly went into safe mode, suspending activities while in contact with Earth. This delayed the start of the mission until Friday night, said chief engineer Marc Rayman of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Rayman called it an "inconvenience" that won't affect the overall mission.

Dawn slipped into orbit around Ceres last month after a nearly eight-year journey powered by ion propulsion engines. On Thursday, it settled into an orbit 8,400 miles (13,500 kilometers) above the surface of Ceres where it was to remain for several weeks before spiraling even closer.

The plan called for Dawn to photograph the ball of ice and rock and analyze the surface with its instruments. Dawn had been snapping pictures of Ceres before it entered orbit, but they were taken from far away.

Scientists hoped to get a better look at a pair of shiny spots located in a crater to determine what they are.

Ceres, the largest object in the between Mars and Jupiter, is Dawn's second stop. The spacecraft previously spent a year at the asteroid Vesta.

Explore further

Dawn glimpses Ceres' north pole

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Citation: Start of dwarf planet mission delayed after small mix-up (2015, April 24) retrieved 25 August 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Apr 24, 2015
I hear a NASA "aint no sech t'ing as aliens" cover story being concocted!!

Apr 25, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Apr 25, 2015
I hear a NASA "aint no sech t'ing as aliens" cover story being concocted!!

Seriously tho', there's some really good insight into the mission at the Dawn Blog --

Apr 25, 2015
Great stuff, Proto! I try to get back to the Dawn blog every month or two to keep track of what it's finding.

Apr 26, 2015
I wonder how much water is really making up this object? The estimates have varied so much over the years and it's time to find the real answers.

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