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Nasa's Dawn Spacecraft to Rendezvous with Vesta Asteroid 

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Old 07-16-2011, 02:22 PM
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Nasa's Dawn Spacecraft to Rendezvous with Vesta Asteroid

After a four-year journey from Earth, a robot surveyor is now thought to be in orbit around one of the largest objects in the asteroid belt.
Nasa's Dawn spacecraft today began a year-long encounter with the 330mile-wide asteroid Vesta, making the mission the first to enter orbit around a main-belt asteroid.
Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are waiting for confirmation that the craft is in orbit.
The main asteroid belt lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, 117million miles from Earth.

Close encounter: Vesta was photographed by the Dawn space probe in unprecedented detail as it approached a few days ago:
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When Vesta's gravity captures Dawn into its orbit, engineers estimate there will be approximately 9,900 miles (16,000 kilometres) between them.
New pictures on Dawn's approach to Vesta show the giant rock in unprecedented detail.
The asteroid looks like a punctured football, the result of a colossal collision sometime in its past that knocked off its south polar region.

Vesta was discovered in 1807, the fourth asteroid to be identified in the great belt of rocky debris orbiting between Mars and Jupiter.
At the time, its great scale meant it was designated as another planet but it later lost this status as researchers learnt more about the diversity of objects in the Solar System.
Dawn's mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by JPL for NASA. Robert Mase, Dawn project manager at JPL, said: 'It has taken nearly four years to get to this point. Our latest tests and check-outs show that Dawn is right on target and performing normally.'

Distant journey: Artist's impression of the ion-drive propelled space probe Dawn arriving in the asteroid belt:
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Engineers have beengently altering Dawn's trajectory for years to match Vesta's orbit around the sun.
Unlike other types of spacecraft, Dawn won't have to make any dramatic, last-second manoeuvres to enter into orbit. The probe has been using its low-thrust ion propulsion system to close the gap on Vesta slowly but surely, and it should simply ease into orbit at about the predicted time.
'We're in an orbit that's very similar to Vesta's now around the sun,' Mase told SPACE.com. 'We just need to keep thrusting, and then eventually we get to the point where technically we're captured.'
Launched in September 2007, Dawn will depart for its second destination, the dwarf planet Ceres, in July 2012. The spacecraft will be the first to orbit two solar system destinations beyond Earth.
They expect to hear confirmation from the satellite on Saturday that it is safely circling the rock.
The distance between Dawn and the asteroid will gradually be reduced with mission scientists hoping to get within 125 miles 200km of the surface but the team do not intend to take any unnecessary risks.

Smash and grab: The view of Vesta from Dawn a month ago, showing the asteroid's lop-sided appearance. Scientists believe the planet lost its southern pole in a collision with a larger object which 'stole' the material:
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Long view: Vesta, from the Hubble Space Telescope, showing its distinctive shape:
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'We would like to get as low as possible but if we crash Dawn, Nasa would understandably be very angry at us,' JPL's Dr Chris Russell said.
Asteroids can tell us about the earliest days of the Solar System. These wandering rocks are often described as the rubble that was left over after the planets proper had formed.
Dawn's job for the next year is to map and study the asteroid's surface. The probe carries instruments to detect the mineral and elemental abundances in its rocks.
It will be looking for evidence of geological processes such as mountain building and rifting. The team is keen to understand how Vesta's surface has been remodelled over time by impacts and even lava flows.
Dawn's observations could help scientists learn more about the early days of the solar system and the processes that formed and shaped rocky planets like Earth and Mars.
Vesta is the second-largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Scientists believe Vesta was well on its way to becoming a full-fledged rocky planet before Jupiter's gravity stirred up the asteroid belt long ago. The dwarf planet Ceres is the only larger occupant of the belt.

Siblings: Ceres and Vesta in views taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, showing their relative sizes and shapes. Ceres is round, while Vesta looks like it has had a lump knocked off with a hammer:
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Dawn will undertake similar research at Ceres, which is 590 miles (950 km) wide, once it gets there in February 2015. It will become the first spacecraft ever to orbit two different objects in the solar system beyond the Earth and moon.
Though they both reside in the asteroid belt, Vesta and Ceres are very different bodies. Ceres is more primitive and wet, possibly harbouring water ice, Mase said. Vesta seems to be more evolved, drier and rockier.
A detailed study of these two gigantic asteroids could shed light on how rocky bodies coalesced and evolved in the early days of the solar system, researchers said. This information could bear on how our own planet — and Mars, Mercury and Venus — came to be.
'The mission goals are really to be able to compare and contrast those two bodies to understand how they evolved, what they say about how the other planets in the inner solar system evolved and how they could be in roughly the same place around the sun and yet be such very different bodies,' Mase said.
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Old 07-16-2011, 02:29 PM
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Re: Nasa's Dawn Spacecraft to Rendezvous with Vesta Asteroid

awesome,i watched a show about that asteroid not to long ago.

damn good post kelly

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Old 07-16-2011, 07:03 PM
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Re: Nasa's Dawn Spacecraft to Rendezvous with Vesta Asteroid

Very interesting, Kel.

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Old 07-17-2011, 03:03 PM
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Re: Nasa's Dawn Spacecraft to Rendezvous with Vesta Asteroid

Thanks for the great post.

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Old 07-17-2011, 03:21 PM
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Re: Nasa's Dawn Spacecraft to Rendezvous with Vesta Asteroid

Great post!

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Old 08-02-2011, 08:01 AM
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New stuff from Dawn is up

There's some new stuff
Quote:
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.

The Dawn team unveiled the first full-frame image of Vesta taken on July 24:
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/da.../pia14317.html
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NASA's Dawn spacecraft obtained this image of the giant asteroid Vesta with its framing camera on July 24, 2011. It was taken from a distance of about 3,200 miles (5,200 kilometers). Dawn entered orbit around Vesta on July 15, and will spend a year orbiting the body. After that, the next stop on its itinerary will be an encounter with the dwarf planet Ceres.
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/da.../pia14317.html
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Quote:
In this image, obtained by the framing camera on NASA's Dawn spacecraft, a set of three craters, informally nicknamed "Snowman" by the camera's team members, is located in the northern hemisphere of Vesta. The image was taken on July 24, 2011, from a distance of about 3,200 miles (5,200 kilometers).
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/da.../pia14323.html

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Quote:
In this movie, strung together from a series of images provided by the framing camera on NASA's Dawn spacecraft, we see a full rotation of Vesta, which occurs over the course of roughly five hours. These images were obtained on July 24, 2011, from a distance of about 3,200 miles (5,200 kilometers).
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/da...14321-vid.html


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Quote:
This animation shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft flying above Vesta, based on an artist's concept of the surface of the giant asteroid.
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/da...n20110801.html
http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/

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Old 08-02-2011, 08:23 AM
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Re: Nasa's Dawn Spacecraft to Rendezvous with Vesta Asteroid

Thanks for the updates

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Old 08-02-2011, 08:41 AM
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Re: Nasa's Dawn Spacecraft to Rendezvous with Vesta Asteroid

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelly View Post


'The mission goals are really to be able to compare and contrast those two bodies to understand how they evolved, what they say about how the other planets in the inner solar system evolved and how they could be in roughly the same place around the sun and yet be such very different bodies,' Mase said.
Attachment 289430
Actually the main mission goal is to see how long the engine on the probe will last for, and to see how far it can go. The ion drive propulsion system is still in an experimental stage and the tech nerds are waiting for all of the performance data to be available for analysis. This technology is the next step foreward for space exploration and colonisation.

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