NASA's Dawn spacecraft has recovered from an unexpected phenomenon that resulted in the robotic explorer going into safe mode on September 11, mirroring a similar event that affected the spacecraft three years ago as it approached the protoplanet Vesta. Dawn was launched in September 2007 atop a Delta II-Heavy rocket with a mission to explore Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres.
Currently, the unmanned explorer is well under way to its final scientific destination, Ceres, that it is due to reach in April 2015 – a full month later than originally scheduled, thanks to Thursday's setback.
The probe carries three instruments: a visible light camera, a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer, and a visible and infrared mapping spectrometer. By examining Vesta and Ceres with these instruments, Dawn will compare the evolutionary paths taken by each of the celestial bodies, informing current theories on the processes that formed our early solar system.
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Via Chuck Sherwood, Senior Associate, TeleDimensions, Inc