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NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Begins Science Orbits of Vesta

 
Anonymous Coward
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08/01/2011 12:15 PM
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NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Begins Science Orbits of Vesta
NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Begins Science Orbits of Vesta

:vesta:

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Dawn spacecraft, the first ever to orbit an object in the main asteroid belt, is spiraling towards its first of four intensive science orbits. That initial orbit of the rocky world Vesta begins Aug. 11, at an altitude of nearly 1,700 miles (2,700 kilometers) and will provide in-depth analysis of the asteroid. Vesta is the brightest object in the asteroid belt as seen from Earth and is thought to be the source of a large number of meteorites that fall to Earth.

Full-Frame Image of Vesta

[link to www.nasa.gov]
This image was taken at a distance of 3,200 miles (5,200 kilometers). Images from Dawn's framing camera, taken for navigation purposes and as preparation for scientific observations, are revealing the first surface details of the giant asteroid. These images go all the way around Vesta, since the giant asteroid turns on its axis once every five hours and 20 minutes.


Now that we are in orbit around one of the last unexplored worlds in the inner solar system, we can see that it's a unique and fascinating place," said Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer and mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

After traveling nearly four years and 1.7 billion miles (2.8 billion kilometers), Dawn has been captured by Vesta's gravity, and there currently are 1,800 miles (2,900 kilometers) between the asteroid and the spacecraft. The giant asteroid and its new neighbor are approximately 114 million miles (184 million kilometers) away from Earth.

"We have been calling Vesta the smallest terrestrial planet," said Chris Russell, Dawn's principal investigator at UCLA. "The latest imagery provides much justification for our expectations. They show that a variety of processes were once at work on the surface of Vesta and provide extensive evidence for Vesta's planetary aspirations."

Engineers still are working to determine the exact time that Dawn entered Vesta's orbit, but the team has reported an approximate orbit insertion time of 9:47 p.m. PDT on July 15 (12:47 a.m. EDT on July 16).

In addition to the framing camera, Dawn's instruments include the gamma ray and neutron detector and the visible and infrared mapping spectrometer. The gamma ray and neutron detector uses 21 sensors with a very wide field of view to measure the energy of subatomic particles emitted by the elements in the upper yard (meter) of the asteroid's surface. The visible and infrared mapping spectrometer will measure the surface mineralogy of both Vesta and Dawn's next target, the dwarf planet Ceres. The spectrometer is a modification of a similar one flying on the European Space Agency's Rosetta and Venus Express missions.

Dawn also will make another set of scientific measurements at Vesta and Ceres using the spacecraft's radio transmitter in tandem with sensitive antennas on Earth. Scientists will monitor signals from Dawn and later Ceres to detect subtle variations in the objects' gravity fields. These variations will provide clues about the interior structure of these bodies by studying the mass distributed in each gravity field.

"The new observations of Vesta are an inspirational reminder of the wonders unveiled through ongoing exploration of our solar system," said Jim Green, planetary division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Read more:

[link to www.nasa.gov]
kettlnaut

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08/01/2011 12:39 PM
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Re: NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Begins Science Orbits of Vesta
Hey alright cheers for the only thread I see on a Monday morning that does not have doom or fear inspired content. This is interesting. Wonder what they hope to learn from orbiting an asteroid for a year? Reminds me of when I was young and I thought NASA was just a brave team of scientists exploring space, and not some secretive military intelligence gathering operation (like pretty much all of the government agencies at this point). ;D
Love, Information, Curiosity, Creativity -->Man's Truly Divine Purpose for Life on this Planet!
-----------------------------------------------------​---------------
In the spirit of the Ancient Astronaut Astronomers (yeah I saw it on History Channel but we all have to begin enlightenment somewhere) I no longer discount myths, legends, prophecies etc based on age or source. They are valuable accounts from a time with a very different vocabulary and world view, and when seen in that light are now surprising evidence of amazing historical and future events!
Anonymous Coward
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08/01/2011 12:40 PM
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Re: NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Begins Science Orbits of Vesta
Why does it look like an animation?
SpaceWatcher
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08/01/2011 12:53 PM
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Re: NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Begins Science Orbits of Vesta
I've read that manned exploration of asteroids such as Vesta would be difficult due to the scanty gravity they possess. If their gravity is so weak, I have a few questions:

1) How can a spacecraft achieve a stable orbit around one if the gravity is so weak that an astronaut could jump into orbit from a standing position on one?

2) Why do the spacecraft orbit so FAR away (for example, 1700 miles) instead of coming in really close, seeing as how the weak gravity would not cause the craft to fall into or crash into the asteroid?

Astronut out there, any ideas?
Practically ET

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08/01/2011 01:15 PM
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Re: NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Begins Science Orbits of Vesta
Seems more and more like we live in virtual reality... Imagine if the Government and Shadow elite didn't keep us from the technology.

We could travel to other worlds, other galaxies, solve world hunger and energy problems. It's really too bad because I bet Space and the universe is an exciting place!
500 Billion Galaxies in the observable universe. 100 Trillion stars in the Milky way. 50 Million potentially habitable planets in the Milky Way. And you're telling me ETs don't exist?
Anonymous Coward
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Ecuador
08/01/2011 01:31 PM
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Re: NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Begins Science Orbits of Vesta
Seems more and more like we live in virtual reality...

We could travel to other worlds, other galaxies, solve world hunger and energy problems. It's really too bad because I bet Space and the universe is an exciting place!
 Quoting: Practically ET


ET,

Amen to the, brother.

The universe always gets my adrenaline flowing.

Thanks, OP

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