NASA mission to Ceres & Vesta
Dawn Spacecraft launch from Cape Canaveral scheduled for July 7th
Dawn will conduct a detailed study of the structure and composition of two of the first bodies formed in our solar system: the "dwarf planet" Ceres and the massive asteroid Vesta. The mission's goals include determining the shape, size, composition, internal structure, the tectonic and thermal evolution of Vesta and Ceres.
Dawn, which will be the first spacecraft to orbit two planetary bodies on the same mission, is expected to reveal the conditions under which these objects formed. Comparing their different evolutionary paths will provide evidence about the role of size and water in planetary evolution.
Dawn is scheduled to fly past Mars by April 2009, and after more than four years of travel, the spacecraft will rendezvous with Vesta in 2011. The spacecraft will orbit Vesta for approximately nine months, studying its structure and composition. In 2012, Dawn will leave for a three-year cruise to Ceres. Dawn will rendezvous with Ceres and begin orbit in 2015, conducting studies and observations for at least five months.
Read more NASA's Dawn Mission from Science Daily
Artist's impression of the Dawn spacecraft. (Credit: W.K. Hartmann Courtesy / UCLA)