The Dawn mission is achieving a first in space exploration, exploring not one but two distinct destinations in the main asteroid belt, hundreds of thousands of miles from Earth. Giant asteroid Vesta was confirmed to be a dynamic terrestrial world, much like members of the inner solar system. Dwarf planet Ceres, larger yet less dense and with a confirmed presence of water vapor in its thin atmosphere, is hypothesized to be an icy body, reminiscent of members of the outer solar system.

Before July 2011, giant asteroid Vesta was only a series of modest images brought to us by the Hubble Space Telescope, enough to tantalize and inspire the Dawn mission, but essentially an unexplored new world in our solar system. Thousands of images and other data downloads later, the spacecraft cruised out of orbit around Vesta in September 2012 and into its trajectory to the mission's second destination, Ceres. The science team continues its intense work analyzing all the fascinating data gathered during its survey, high and low altitude mapping orbits at Vesta.
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After chasing down Ceres for more than two years, the Dawn spacecraft arrived safely and moved into orbit to begin NASA's—humanity's—first ever exploration of a dwarf planet. As the mission commences its science orbits, we will learn far more about mysterious Ceres, its mysterious bright spots already capturing our collective imagination.
> View Ceres