How NASA's Dawn Asteroid Mission Works (Infographic)
See how NASA's Dawn spacecraft will visit the asteroids Vesta and Ceres in this infographic.
Credit: Karl Tate/

Update for March 6 at 10:09 a.m. EST: NASA's Dawn probe successfully entered orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres today at 7:39 a.m. EST (1339 GMT). Read the full story here - NASA Dawn Probe Enters Orbit Around Dwarf Planet Ceres, a Historic First

NASA's Dawn spacecraft is a $466 million mission to visit two unique asteroids in the asteroid belt that circles the sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The Infographic  above offers details about the Dawn mission and its trip through the solar system.

The Dawn spacecraft is aimed at exploring the two huge asteroids Vesta and Ceres. Ceres is the largest asteroid in the solar system (about the size of Texas), and is so big it is also classified as a dwarf planet. Vesta is the brightest asteroid known and is the second most massive object in the asteroid belt.

NASA launched the Dawn mission in 2007, with the spacecraft arriving at Vesta in July 2011. Since then it has beamed back stunning views and observations of the asteroid. NASA extended Dawn's stay at Vesta by 40 days to glean more details of the huge space rock.

In August 2012, Dawn will leave Vesta and head off to Ceres, where it is expected to arrive in February 2015. The Dawn spacecraft is the first probe ever built to orbit two asteroids. It uses solar arrays to generate power and an ion drive for propulsion.

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