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Dawn spacecraft makes permanent re-entry into asteroid belt


An artistic conception of Dawn spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL

WASHINGTON (BNS): NASA’s unmanned Dawn spacecraft, which is on a mission to explore two main celestial objects in our solar system’s asteroid belt – asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres – has re-entered into the region last week.

The spacecraft had first entered the asteroid belt, which is located roughly between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter, in June 2008. It stay put there for 40 days before its carefully planned orbital path brought it below the asteroid belt's lower boundary, NASA said.

This time around, Dawn's flight path will remain above this ‘hypothetical lower boundary’ for the rest of the mission. This will make Dawn the first human-made object to take up permanent residence in the asteroid belt and orbit two planetary bodies on a single voyage, the space agency said.

Launched in September 2007, Dawn is scheduled to explore Vesta between 2011 and 2012, and Ceres in 2015. The mission will answer basic questions about the formation of planets in our solar system.

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