A True Interplanetary Spaceship

The team behind NASA’s asteroid mission Dawn takes home the National Air and Space Museum Trophy.

Marc Rayman and the flight operations team in the mission control room the day Dawn launched, September 27, 2007. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/M. Rayman)
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I certainly like my very first one, which was “Dawnophile.” The only one I repeat is every September 27, I address it to “Dawn-a-versaries,” because that’s the anniversary of our launch, but all the others have been a different one every time. When I started them, I didn’t appreciate how difficult it was going to be to keep coming up with them, because I just hadn’t thought carefully about how many of these I would write of them. The one I write in April will be my one-hundredth. Oh, another one I particularly like was “Aficidawnados.”

Anything else?

Rayman: I’m sitting here looking out my window and realizing that I should’ve told you in other moment in the mission that is among my favorites, when Dawn passed on the far side of the sun. That’s something other spacecraft have done, although not many, and that is another one of these remarkable moments to think about humankind having a spacecraft on the far side of the sun. It’s the same sun that’s 100 times larger than Earth, the same sun that’s the gravitational master of our solar system, the same sun that’s shown down on our planet throughout all of human history, and it’s been the source of so much of our heat and light and other energy, and the same sun that’s influenced human expression and art, literature, culture, science, philosophy, mythology and religion. It’s the same sun that’s our signpost in the Milky Way galaxy, and yet, we have spacecraft on the far side of it, and I think that is really something special.

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