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November 14, 2012
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. -- Against a backdrop of clouds on the horizon, the Delta II rocket carrying NASA's Dawn spacecraft rises from the smoke and fire on the launch pad to begin its 1.7-billion-mile journey through the inner solar system to study a pair of asteroids. Liftoff was at 7:34 a.m. EDT from Pad 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Dawn is the ninth mission in NASA's Discovery Program. The spacecraft will be the first to orbit two planetary bodies, asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres, during a single mission. Vesta and Ceres lie in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It is also NASA's first purely scientific mission powered by three solar electric ion propulsion engines. Photo credit: NASA/Sandra Joseph & Rafael Hernandez