Tuesday, January 20, 2015

NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Makes Final Approach to Ceres

NASA's space probe Dawn was launched in 2007, its mission, to study the two most-massive objects of the asteroid belt: the proto-planet Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres.  Dawn probe is scheduled to arrive at rdgf March 6.

Dawn is the first spacecraft to visit Vesta, entering orbit on July 16, 2011. Dawn then successfully completed its 14-month survey of Vesta  in late 2012. Should its entire mission succeed, it will also be the first spacecraft to visit Ceres and to orbit two separate extraterrestrial bodies.

Previous multi-destination missions were hampered by the use of conventional drives, such as the Voyager program. Since conventional engines have a weight penalty, they were restricted to flybys.

The Dawn mission is the first NASA exploratory mission to use ion propulsion to enter and leave orbit, as well as course corrections.

Top photo the asteroid Vesta taken by Dawn
Middle is an artist's representation of Dawn
Bottom is Ceres                                  

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