Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: NASA's Dawn spacecraft launched in 2007, has currently entered an approach phase towards dwarf planet Ceres, which has never been visited before by a spacecraft.
It is interesting to note that it is the first time that a spacecraft has ever orbited two solar system targets.
The spacecraft has recently emerged from solar conjunction, in which the spacecraft is on the opposite side of the Sun, limiting communication with antennas on Earth.
Now, that the Dawn can reliably communicate with Earth again, mission controllers have programmed the manoeuvres necessary for the next stage of the rendezvous, which they label for the Ceres approach phase.
Dawn is currently 640,000 kilometres from Ceres, approaching it at around 725 kilometres per hour. The spacecraft's arrival at Ceres will mark the first time that a spacecraft has ever orbited two solar system targets.
Dawn previously explored the protoplanet Vesta for 14 months, from 2011 to 2012, capturing detailed images and data about that body.
Dawn has now completed five years of accumulated thrust time, far more than any other spacecraft. By the end of January, the spacecraft's images and other data would be the best ever taken of the dwarf planet .
Dawn is scheduled to enter Ceres orbit in March 2015.
(With Agency inputs)