Dawn spacecraft

Dawn spacecraft

Courtesy of NASA


Dawn is traveling to the asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter) to investigate two objects and learn more about the earliest history of the solar system.

September 27, 2007

(orbit Vesta) 2011–2012; (orbit Ceres) 2015

End of Mission
Still operating

Learn the conditions and processes of the early solar system by detailed investigation of asteroids Vesta and Ceres, two of the largest protoplanets not broken up since their formation. Determine how protoplanet size and water content are involved in the evolution of planets.

No findings yet. If Vesta is found to have rocks that are more strongly magnetized than rocks on Mars, our ideas about the formation of magnetic fields on planetary objects will change. If Ceres is found to have a thin, permanent atmosphere, then scientists will know that it is unlike any other minor planet.