Dawn will delve into the origins of our solar system through intense study of Ceres and Vesta, two
minor planets that reside in the vast asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The mission marks the first
time a spacecraft will orbit two planetary bodies on a single voyage.
Ceres and Vesta evolved under radically different circumstances in different parts of the solar system
more than 4.6 billion years ago. Water may have kept Ceres cool as it evolved. There may still be frost or vapor
on its surface and, possibly, water-bearing minerals. Vesta's origins were hot and violent. Its
interior is melted; its surface dry. As a result of these diverse evolutionary paths, Ceres remains in its
primordial state, while Vesta evolved and changed over millions of years.
By observing both protoplanets with the same set of instruments, Dawn will provide new insight into
the formation and evolution of our solar system.
The Dawn mission was launched on September 27, 2007. It will study Vesta beginning in July 2011, and Ceres beginning in
The Dawn Mission is part of NASA's Discovery Program, an initiative for lower-cost, highly focused,
rapid-development scientific spacecraft. The Dawn mission is led by Christopher T. Russell of UCLA.
The project is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Orbital Sciences Corp., Dulles, Virginia, will
develop the spacecraft.
Look here for additional information on the Dawn mission: