Dawn launched!

By Phil Plait | September 27, 2007 9:08 am

It’s a been a long, difficult road, but the Dawn mission launched this morning and is on its way to the asteroid belt. It will go to Vesta and Ceres, the two largest asteroids, orbit them, and take lots and lots of data. The images will be simply spectacular, and it will also take spectra and mineralogical studies to determine the composition and history of these two ginormous rocks in space (Ceres is about 1000 km across, Vesta 500).

Search for the word Dawn in my blog search engine to get an idea of how tough this mission has had it: it was basically canceled, then reinstated, then delayed, and and and. My friend Amara has an excellent blog post with some more background.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, NASA, Science

Comments (20)

  1. Dean

    I think you mean that Ceres is 1000 km in diameter?

  2. Chas

    Was it my imagination or was one of the SRB’s not burning in the launch video?

  3. Max Fagin

    “Ceres is about 100 km across, Vesta 500″

    I thought Ceres was the larger of the two? At least, I thought Ceres measured in at to least a 1000 kms.

  4. The dreaded missing zero strikes again! The zero key is a counter-revolutionary agent opposing the Great Principled People’s Democratic Leap Forward! There is no room for bourgeois ephemera such as trials in the Revolution; have the zero key taken out of my sight and shot.

    ~ Commissar Centipede

    But seriously, huzzah for long-duration ion drive missions. Getting places on the cheap is great, assuming you don’t mind taking the time to get there. Can’t wait for some high-resolution pictures of the big players in the Asteroid (and Dwarf Planet) belt.

  5. scottmsg

    “Was it my imagination or was one of the SRB’s not burning in the launch video?”

    The Delta II rocket used to launch Dawn had 9 boosters. Six of those are ignited at liftoff, the other three ignite after about a minute.

  6. Fizzle

    I was watching MSNBC this morning, and there was a small bit of news about Dawn and the reporter that was on said that it was going to a planet the size of Texas in the asteroid belt! I then heard a popping sound that was my head exploding.

  7. Durnett

    Here’s hoping that there aren’t a bunch of alien von Neumann probes waiting in the asteroids to hi-jack our little visitor!

    (Ohhh, David Brin, why do you haunt my nightmares?)

  8. Matt

    Is Vesta a sphere? I keep thinking it just missed the cutoff, mass-wise.

    The size of Texas? A planet the size of Texas? So 900 miles wide and very, very thin? Moron.

  9. Yes but all the press releases say they’rewaiting for a signal from the craft withing 2-4 hours.. did it come?

  10. Markus Mencke

    “Yes but all the press releases say they’rewaiting for a signal from the craft withing 2-4 hours.. did it come?”

    Signal from Dawn has been received at 9:44 EDT, according to Nasa. The probe is stable, solar array is deployed.

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/news/dawn-20070927a.html

  11. W00t! It’s about time!

  12. DrFlimmer

    We waited so long for the launch… and now… we have to wait again!
    Dawn will visit Vesta in 2011 and Ceres in 2015. That’s long, indeed.
    But it was a nice liftoff – I can’t wait to see the next launch, in October, Atlantis, isn’t it?

  13. Donnie B.

    Whenever I hear about Vesta, I think of Asimov’s very first short story, “Marooned Off Vesta”. Let’s hope he wasn’t prophetic about our intrepid little probe.

    I bet he’d be mighty excited about the Dawn mission, if he were still with us.

  14. Troy

    YAHOO! I’m going to play a celebratory game of “Asteroids”!
    Good luck Dawn craft and crew!

  15. We actually just got home (to Texas) from Cocoa Beach following a trip to Disney with the grandparents. As fate would have it, the vacation put us a block from Cocoa Beach on Thursday morning, so we got to watch the launch from the beach.

    Absolutely breathtaking. This is the second launch I’ve gotten to see firsthand, following a night-launch of Endeavor a few years ago that I’ll never forget. It’s times like that that make we wanna move to Florida and become a complete NASA fanboy.

  16. Tim G

    Here’s a 13 minute video about the Dawn mission narrated by Leonard Nimoy.

  17. Appreciate the info guys, thanks

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