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November 13, 2012
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. -- At Astrotech, photographers dressed in clean-room suits are able to shoot the Dawn spacecraft in its entirety before it is prepared for launch. Seen on each side are the folded solar array panels. At the top on the near side is the "box," containing the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, which is designed to measure how much radiation of different "colors" is reflected or emitted by an object. Above it are the framing cameras, which are the scientific imaging system of the Dawn Mission. Dawn's goal is to characterize the conditions and processes of the solar system's earliest epoch by investigating in detail the largest protoplanets that have remained intact since their formations: asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres. They reside in the extensive zone between Mars and Jupiter together with many other smaller bodies, called the asteroid belt. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett