The NASA probe Dawn is exploring deep space, but more specifically, it is orbiting Ceres. Ceres, a dwarf planet, much like the recently demoted Pluto, was discovered back in 1801. It was actually once considered to be a planet after its discovery. Later, it was thought to be only an asteroid, but it currently has the same status as Pluto, that of a dwarf planet. As the Dawn probe orbits Ceres for the next 16 months, it will photograph the surface and try to find the meaning behind two mysterious bright spots that were seen on the surface.
The cost of the Dawn probe was $473 million. Most people would see this as a waste of tax-payer money, and that NASA funding is not a practical use of federal funds. What people fail to realize is that NASA gives people hope that there is something more out there in the vast expansion of space. NASA’s Dawn is one of very few deep space probes, and it is sending back very interesting information about our Solar System.The probe has already sent back photos of the asteroid, Vesta. Though, the photos of Ceres are not even the beginning. NASA also hopes to find vapor plumes or ice deposits on the surface of Ceres, to try and get a better understanding of how water became so abundant on Earth.
Unfortunately, it is not looking as though Washington is very enthused about deep space exploration. They keep pressing NASA to focus on a manned mission to Mars. This might sound like a good idea to some people because it is a very romantic and adventurous idea. It brings back the thought of manifest destiny. The U.S. was the first and only nation to put a man on the moon, and we should be the first to the Red Planet.
The problem with this is that any mission to Mars would do nothing to further our understanding of the planet. It would only serve as the final resting place for the lucky men and women chosen for the mission. We have plenty of unmanned drones that can explore Mars, and they seem to be doing a fairly decent job of it. This seems to be more of a waste of federal funds than NASA’s goal to further our knowledge of our Solar System and our Universe, in general.
It is important that NASA keeps looking further out into space. It gives some people hope that they will find answers to some of the bigger questions in life. Questions like: Why are we here? What else is out there? NASA keeps looking out to the stars, and it gives people the chance to dream of what might be outside the Earth and the Solar System. If NASA were given the proper funding for deep space exploration, they could send probes to Europa, or any other heavenly body that we know tragically little about. For now, NASA’s Dawn probe will have to do everything for deep space exploration.
Opinion by James Dixson
Photo by Peter – Flickr License