June 08, 2009
Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., have received a transmission from the Dawn spacecraft confirming it has re-ignited its ion propulsion system. For those of you scoring at home, Thruster # 1 received the honors. Over the course of its eight-year mission, first to asteroid Vesta and then off to dwarf planet Ceres, Dawn's three ion engines will accumulate 2,000 days of operation.
The mission of the 1138 kilograms (2,508 pound) spacecraft is to reconnoiter Vesta and Ceres, the asteroid belt's two biggest residents.
Dawn is currently 299 million kilometers (185.6 million miles) from Earth. At that distance, it takes almost 17 minutes for a transmission from the spacecraft to arrive on Earth.
For more information on Dawn please visit: http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/