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Dawn flies past Mars
Posted: Thu, Feb 19, 2009, 8:00 AM ET (1300 GMT)
Dawn flies past Mars illus. (NASA/JPL) NASA's Dawn mission flew past Mars late Tuesday on its way to the asteroid belt. The spacecraft passed 550 kilometers from the surface of Mars at 7:28 pm EST Tuesday (0028 GMT Wednesday), accelerating the spacecraft by over 9,000 km/h. The gravity-assist swingby gave the spacecraft enough of a speed boost to put it on course for the large main belt asteroid Vesta. Dawn, launched in 2007, is propelled primarily by its own ion thrusters, but needed the Mars flyby to get enough speed to make the mission viable. Dawn is scheduled to arrive at Vesta in September 2011, followed by a trip to the largest main belt asteroid, Ceres, in 2015.
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