Dawn, a mission belonging to NASA’s Discovery Program, delves into the unknown, drives new technology innovations and achieves what has never been attempted before. Dawn is orbiting asteroid Vesta, then heading to asteroid Ceres to gather more data. Dawn’s goal is to characterize the conditions and processes of the solar system’s earliest epoch by investigating in detail two of the largest protoplanets remaining intact since their formations. Ceres and Vesta reside in the extensive zone between Mars and Jupiter together with many other smaller bodies, called the asteroid belt. Ceres and Vesta are two of the biggest asteroids in the solar system. Ceres is so big that it is classified as a dwarf planet, and Vesta is not far behind.
This mission will help NASA understand what the conditions were when Vesta and Ceres formed at the dawn of the solar system. Dawn will fit more pieces into the grand puzzle of how our solar system formed and evolved — and perhaps how others do as well.
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NASA Now Minute: Dawn-Mission to the Asteroids