According to a report from BBC news, NASA is preparing a mission to explore the two biggest asteroids in the solar system. The spacecraft being launched on this mission is called The Dawn. It is scheduled to go into space in July 2007, from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The two asteroids The Dawn will travel to, are the Ceres and Vesta. The Dawn will get to the asteroid Vesta in the year 2011, and will then travel to explore the asteroid Ceres in 2015.
Wikipedia says that an asteroid is a minor planet or planetoid. This classification is used for celestial objects that orbit the sun. The word asteroid comes from the Greek word that means “star like”.
Ceres was the first asteroid that was ever discovered. This asteroid is the biggest asteroid that is known, and is classified by scientists under the term dwarf planet. Ceres has a diameter of 975 to 909 km. Most asteroids are found in a asteroid belt that orbits between Mars and Jupiter.
Thousands of asteroids have been found in our solar system. About 5,000 new asteroids are discovered each and every month. The total estimate of asteroids in our solar system is approximately between 1.1 to 1.9 million.
A professor from the University of California, Professor Russell, according to the BBC news report said “Ceres and Vesta are revealing information that was frozen into their ancient surfaces. By looking at the surface and how it was modified by the bombardment of meteoroids, we will get an idea of what the early conditions of Ceres and Vesta were and how they changed. So dawn is a history trip too. We’re going back in time to see the early solar system.”
The dawn space craft will be studying the composition and structure of the two asteroids. The data from this mission will help to learn how the asteroids were formed, and possibly reveal the conditions that existed when the asteroids were formed.
The dawn has four main mission objectives. The mission objectives are to study the inside structure of the asteroids and their density, figure out their exact size and shape, get detailed information on the surface of the asteroids, and try to determine how water is used in asteroid evolution.
Proof of water on the asteroid Ceres, will come to light, if there is frozen water or vapor on the surface of the object. The possibility exists that there could be water in liquid form, under the surface of the asteroid.
When the dawn comes in to contact with the second asteroid Ceres in 2015, it will study the object for at least five months. The results of this complete mission will be released, after the information has been studied thoroughly.
“Nasa readies for asteroid mission”