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Nasa’s Asteroids mission on hold. November 8, 2005

Posted by jtintle in Asteroid, Ceres, NASA, Space Fotos, Space News, Vesta.

A NASA mission to Vesta and Ceres, two of the largest asteroids in the solar system, has been placed in “stand down” mode. The ion-engine propelled Dawn mission is dedicated to investigating the two most massive asteroids known: . These two “baby planets” are very different from each other yet both offer tantalizing clues about the formation of the solar system. Dawn is designed to improve scientific understanding of how planets formed during the earliest epoch of the solar system.

Dawn has been on NASA’s books for liftoff in mid-June 2006. The decision to stand down appears related to budget-related measures and workforce cutbacks at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

Dawn is a NASA Discovery-class mission, selected in December 2001. The goal of the Discovery program is to launch many smaller missions with fast development times, each for a fraction of the cost of NASA’s larger missions. Such spacecraft missions are designed to tackle important questions in science yet do it for a very modest cost.

The importance of spacecraft exploration of Ceres, for instance, was recently underscored by astronomical study of the object.

In September it was announced that observations of Ceres made by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope revealed that the object may be a “mini planet” — perhaps loaded with large amounts of pure water ice beneath its surface.


 Source: Science and Space (written by Kyaw Oo)

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