Dawn completes primary mission

July 1, 2016, NASA
This false-color rendering highlights differences in surface materials at Ceres, one of the targets of the Dawn mission. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA

On June 30, just in time for the global celebration known as Asteroid Day, NASA's Dawn spacecraft completes its primary mission. The mission exceeded all expectations originally set for its exploration of protoplanet Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres.

The historic is the first to two extraterrestrial solar system targets, and the first to orbit any object in the main , between Mars and Jupiter. On March 6, 2015, Dawn also became the first spacecraft to enter orbit around a dwarf planet.

An infographic highlights some of the accomplishments of Dawn's journey since launching in September 2007. Dawn has traveled 3.5 billion miles (5.6 billion kilometers) since launch, and has made 2,450 orbits around Vesta and Ceres. The spacecraft has returned about 69,000 images, combined, of both bodies.

Dawn's advanced ion propulsion system made it possible for the spacecraft to orbit two targets in the main asteroid belt. The has logged about 48,000 hours of ion engine thrusting.

Scientists have learned a great deal about these unique, massive residents of the asteroid belt through data from the mission. Dawn has revealed that while Vesta is a dry body, Ceres could be as much as 25 percent water ice by mass. Dawn also discovered many intriguing features at both bodies—Vesta is home to a mountain whose height is more than twice that of Mount Everest, and Ceres has a crater called Occator with mysterious bright features that continue to spark scientific investigation.

NASA's Dawn mission exceeded all expectations during its primary mission to Vesta and Ceres. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Explore further: Dawn snaps its best-yet image of dwarf planet ceres

Related Stories

Dawn snaps its best-yet image of dwarf planet ceres

December 5, 2014

The Dawn spacecraft has delivered a glimpse of Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt, in a new image taken 740,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from the dwarf planet. This is Dawn's best image yet of Ceres as ...

Dawn glimpses Ceres' north pole

April 19, 2015

After spending more than a month in orbit on the dark side of dwarf planet Ceres, NASA's Dawn spacecraft has captured several views of the sunlit north pole of this intriguing world. These images were taken on April 10 from ...

Dawn spirals closer to Ceres, returns a new view

May 28, 2015

A new view of Ceres, taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on May 23, shows finer detail is becoming visible on the dwarf planet. The spacecraft snapped the image at a distance of 3,200 miles (5,100 kilometers) with a resolution ...

Ceres' bright spots come back into view

April 21, 2015

The two brightest spots on dwarf planet Ceres, which have fascinated scientists for months, are back in view in the newest images from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. Dawn took these images on April 14 and 15 from a vantage point ...

Recommended for you

Cellular microRNA detection with miRacles

March 26, 2019

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short noncoding regulatory RNAs that can repress gene expression post-transcriptionally and are therefore increasingly used as biomarkers of disease. Detecting miRNAs can be arduous and expensive as ...

What happened before the Big Bang?

March 26, 2019

A team of scientists has proposed a powerful new test for inflation, the theory that the universe dramatically expanded in size in a fleeting fraction of a second right after the Big Bang. Their goal is to give insight into ...

Probiotic bacteria evolve inside mice's GI tracts

March 26, 2019

Probiotics—which are living bacteria taken to promote digestive health—can evolve once inside the body and have the potential to become less effective and sometimes even harmful, according to a new study from Washington ...

0 comments

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.