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03-Mar-06 | Dawn mission cancelled

NASA has cancelled Dawn, a mission to visit two of the solar system’s biggest asteroids, Vesta and Ceres. The program was put on hold in October 2005 for an independent review, some time after project scientists had asked for an additional $40 million. Clearly the review board’s findings were not favourable; it is not known to this reporter how much of the project’s initial $371 million budget has already been spent on a spacecraft that will never fly. Dawn, part of the Discovery series* that includes such grand successes as Mars Pathfinder and last year’s Deep Impact (as well as the failed CONTOUR in 2002), was intended to launch later this year on a three-stage Delta II-Heavy. (, 02-Mar-06)

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