The ambitious and exciting Dawn mission is one of NASA's most remarkable ventures into the solar system. The spacecraft completed a spectacular exploration of Vesta in 2011-2012 and arrived in orbit around Ceres in 2015.

These were among the last uncharted worlds in the inner solar system prior to Dawn. They are the two largest residents of the main asteroid belt, that vast collection of bodies between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres is so large that it is included in the category of dwarf planets, along with Pluto.

Dr. Marc Rayman is the director and chief engineer for NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which was launched in 2007 on a mission to orbit the two most massive bodies in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter to characterize the conditions and processes that shaped our solar system.

He will give a fascinating and entertaining presentation on the Dawn mission at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 25 at the new Goldstone Visitors Center at the Harvey House, 681 N. First Ave., Barstow. The public is invited to attend this free presentation.

The alien landscapes Dawn reveals provide humankind with a new perspective on the solar system. Remnants from the time that planets were formed, Ceres and Vesta hold clues that will help scientists understand the dawn of the solar system.

Dawn is the only spacecraft ever to orbit a dwarf planet and is the only one ever to orbit any two extraterrestrial destinations. It has also maneuvered extensively in orbit to optimize its observations. Such a mission would be impossible without the use of ion propulsion, a technology that has largely been in the domain of science fiction, but which was tested extensively on the Deep Space 1 mission, paving the way for Dawn.