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Dawn Enters Orbit Around Ceres!

Confirmation was received at 1:36 PM GMT, which means that, as of about four hours ago, we know that Dawn entered orbit around Ceres, becoming both the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet, ahead of New Horizons‘ flyby of Pluto, scheduled to take place in July, and the first spacecraft to orbit two different solar system bodies. According to the information currently available, the actual orbital insertion took place around 12:39 PM GMT, though the way in which this is achieved and the exact trajectory are rather unusual, so at the moment I’m personally not quite sure what that means in terms of how long it’ll be before achieving its first stable science orbit.
What matters most, however, is that, as of today, we’re there, and by “we” I’m referring to humans as a species. We now have a presence, we now have “eyes”, around what was, for a time, in the 1800s, considered the solar system’s fifth planet, before being relegated to the status of asteroid and then promoted again, this time to that of dwarf planet, when this concept was introduced, not that long ago.
Now, as the scientists and technicians involved will be working furiously over the coming hours and days to ensure that everything is in order and the actual science campaign can begin in good conditions, what the rest of us can do is wait for more information to be released, and perhaps spread the word and attempt to create even more interest and support, which may help other such missions be approved and funded in the future. After all, even if we’re talking strictly about Ceres, many interesting questions exist and Dawn will only be able to answer some of them, while most probably replacing them with some even more intriguing ones, as that tends to be what exploration is all about.


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