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Missions & Programs
The Dawn spacecraft visited asteroid Vesta and will soon visit asteroid and dwarf planet Ceres.
Asteroid Missions
Alhough only a few missions have so far targeted asteroids as their primary destination, a number of spacecraft have either flown by or observed asteroids from afar to help improve our understanding of these ancient bodies.
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The Rosetta mission will follow a comet as it approaches the sun and deploy a lander.
Comet Missions
Missions that have observed comets or the debris trails they leave behind number close to two dozen, but only a select few have gotten very close to the dusty, icy heart of a comet -- the nucleus.
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The New Horizons mission will fly through the Pluto system and then explore the Kuiper Belt.
Dwarf Planet Missions
With the exception of Ceres, which will first be visited by the Dawn mission, the dwarf planets orbit beyond distant Neptune. The first mission to visit one of the distant dwarf planets (Pluto) is New Horizons. Both missions arrive in 2015.
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Research into the small, primitive bodies yields important information.
Research Programs
In addition to space missions, a variety of research efforts around the world are devoted to the primitive bodies of the solar system. Many receive funding from NASA or share their data with NASA missions and scientists.
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