NASA’s Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

Lecture: NASA's Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

Friday, December 5

The ambitious and exciting Dawn mission is one of NASA's most remarkable ventures into the solar system. After more than seven years of interplanetary spaceflight, the probe is just a few months away from the mysterious world Ceres. The spacecraft has already completed a spectacular exploration of Vesta. These were among the last uncharted worlds in the inner solar system prior to Dawn. They are the two most massive residents of the main asteroid belt, that vast collection of bodies between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres is so large that it is included in the category of dwarf planets, along with Pluto. The alien landscapes Dawn reveals provide humankind with a new perspective on the solar system. Remnants from the time that planets were formed, Ceres and Vesta hold clues that will help scientists understand the dawn of the solar system. Dawn orbited Vesta from July 2011 to September 2012 and returned astonishing views of this fascinating world. It is the only spaceship ever to orbit an object in the asteroid belt and is the first ever targeted to orbit any two extraterrestrial destinations. Such a mission would be truly impossible without the use of ion propulsion, a technology that has mostly been in the domain of science fiction. Dr. Marc Rayman will give a fascinating and entertaining presentation on the Dawn mission and its two exotic destinations as well as its use of ion propulsion. He also will share the excitement and profundity of controlling a robotic ambassador from Earth in deep space.

Dr. Marc Rayman, Dawn Project Mission Director

Standard Podcast: Play video (without captions)