Dawn, as a mission belonging to NASA’s Discovery Program, delves into the unknown, drives new technology innovations, and achieves what's never been attempted before. In Dawn’s case, it is orbiting one member of the main asteroid belt, Vesta, before heading to gather yet more data at a second, Ceres.
Dawn's goal is to characterize the conditions and processes of the solar system's earliest epoch by investigating in detail two of the largest protoplanets remaining intact since their formations. Ceres and Vesta reside in the extensive zone between Mars and Jupiter together with many other smaller bodies, called the asteroid belt. Each has followed a very different evolutionary path constrained by the diversity of processes that operated during the first few million years of solar system evolution.