NASA’s Dawn spacecraft made history at 4:39 a.m. PST Friday morning when it reached Ceres and became the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet.
According to NASA, the objective of the Dawn mission is to “study the asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres, celestial bodies believed to have accreted early in the history of the solar system. The mission will characterize the early solar system and the processes that dominated its formation.”
Dawn was launched from Cape Canaveral in September 2007, with an ultimate destination of the asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn’s first target in the asteroid belt was Vesta. Dawn arrived there in 2011 and spent 14 months studying the protoplanet. Since leaving Vesta, Dawn has had a trajectory for its second and final destination: Ceres. No other spacecraft has ever orbited two separate targets.