In March, NASA’ Dawn spacecraft will arrive ceres to begin the first close-up examination of a dwarf planet. Ceres is 600 miles wide the largest of the asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. “We’re going to reveal the fascinating details of a giant world of rock and ice,” said Marc Rayman, the chief engineer for NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. “Ceres has 38 percent of the area of the continental United States. It’s actually the largest body between the sun and Pluto that a spacecraft has not yet visited.”
These missions, years in the works, are expected to let loose a flood of data that will help paint clearer pictures of Ceres and Pluto and uncover clues on the origins of our solar system. They will also rekindle the debate over what constitutes a planet.