WILLIAM K. HARTMANN, UCLA / NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY WILLIAM K. HARTMANN, UCLA / NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Dawn spacecraft in the asteroid belt, artwork. The Dawn spacecraft is a robotic space probe that was launched on a NASA mission to the asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter). The spacecraft's objectives are the minor planet Ceres (centre right) and the asteroid Vesta (lower left), the two largest bodies in the asteroid belt. Ceres and Vesta will be studied to answer questions about their composition and formation, and the early history of the solar system. Here, one of the spacecraft's xenon ion thrusters is in use (green beam), and the solar panels (blue) are deployed. The spacecraft was launched on 27 September 2007. It arrived at Vesta in October 2011, and is scheduled to arrive at Ceres in March 2015.
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