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George Diller
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

D.C. Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA Offers Media Access to Dawn Spacecraft June 14
NASA's Dawn spacecraft, targeted to launch aboard a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral on July 7, will be the focus of a media opportunity at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, June 14, at Astrotech in Titusville, Fla. The event is an opportunity to photograph Dawn and interview project and launch program officials about the mission.

Dawn's goal is to characterize the conditions and processes of the solar system's earliest epoch 4.5 billion years ago by investigating in detail two of the largest asteroids, Ceres and Vesta. They reside between Mars and Jupiter in the asteroid belt. Scientists theorize these were budding planets never given the opportunity to grow. However, Ceres and Vesta each followed a very different evolutionary path during the first few million years of the solar system's evolution. By investigating two very different asteroids during the spacecraft's eight-year flight, the Dawn mission aims to unlock some of the mysteries of planetary formation. Dawn will be the first spacecraft to orbit an object in the asteroid belt and the first to orbit two bodies after leaving Earth.

For the media event, procedures for optically sensitive spacecraft must be followed by individuals entering the clean room where the spacecraft is being prepared for launch. Full clean room attire (bunny suits) must be worn and will be furnished. Please do not wear perfume, cologne or makeup. Long pants and closed-toe shoes must be worn -- no shorts, skirts or high heels.

Camera equipment including tripods and photo accessories must be cleaned under supervision of contamination-control specialists before entering the clean room. All equipment must be self-contained; no portable lights can be allowed. Non-essential equipment such as suede, leather or vinyl camera bags or other carrying cases must be left outside the clean room. No pencils or felt-tipped pens are permitted; only ball-point pens may be used. No food, tobacco, chewing gum, lighters, matches or pocketknives will be allowed.

Wireless microphones are allowed, but flash photography cannot be permitted due to the sensitivity of the spacecraft's solar arrays. There is adequate metal halide lighting in the facility for photography (white with slight green cast; suggested exposure for ISO-ASA 400 is 1/30 sec. at f/5.6).

Primary spokespersons available to the media will be:

Chris Russell, Dawn Principal Investigator
University of California at Los Angeles

Michael Mook, Dawn Program Manager
Orbital Sciences Corporation, Dulles, Va.

Armando Piloto, NASA-KSC Mission Manager
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is responsible for the project management of Dawn. Orbital Sciences Corporation built the Dawn spacecraft. Other partners include Los Alamos National Laboratory, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the German Aerospace Center, the Italian Space Agency, and the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics. The NASA Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center and the United Launch Alliance are responsible for the launch of the Delta II.

On Thursday, media may proceed directly to Astrotech located in the Spaceport Florida Industrial Park, 1515 Chaffee Drive, Titusville. Access at the gate will start at 1:15 p.m. The event will begin at 1:30 p.m. and last approximately two hours.

Dawn's journey to the asteroid belt is made possible by ion propulsion. Initially tested and proven successful on NASA's Deep Space 1 mission, this innovative technology is now applied in the design of the Dawn spacecraft. Ion propulsion allows Dawn to undertake a mission that would be unaffordable -- or perhaps impossible -- with a more conventional propulsion system. Two large solar arrays, stretching approximately 65 feet from tip to tip once deployed, help to harness power from the distant sun to the ion engines. The power then ionizes the onboard xenon fuel and accelerates the ions, which in turns accelerates the spacecraft.

For further information, contact the NASA News Center at KSC at 321-867-2468.

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