By Marc Rayman
As NASA’s Dawn spacecraft makes its journey to its second target, the dwarf planet Ceres, Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer, shares a monthly update on the mission’s progress.
In this graphic of Dawn’s interplanetary trajectory, the thin solid lines represent the orbits of Earth, Mars, Vesta and Ceres. After leaving Vesta, Dawn’s orbit temporarily takes it closer to the Sun than Vesta, although in this view they are so close together the difference is not visible because of the thickness of the lines. Dawn will remain in orbit around Ceres at the end of its primary mission. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Dear Dawnscerning Readers,
Nearly three times as far from Earth as the sun is, the Dawn spacecraft is making very good progress on its ambitious trek from Vesta to Ceres. After a spectacular adventure at the second most massive resident of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Dawn used its extraordinary ion propulsion system to leave it behind and undertake the long journey to a dwarf planet.
Ceres orbits the sun outside Vesta’s orbit, yet Dawn is now closer to the sun than both of these alien worlds. How can it be that as ...