Update: June 13, 2011 – Scientists working with NASA’s Dawn spacecraft have created a new video showing the giant asteroid Vesta as the spacecraft approaches this unexplored world in the main asteroid belt. more> http://is.gd/g9G8yr
NASA – This image shows the first, unprocessed image obtained by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft of the giant asteroid Vesta in front of a background of stars. It was obtained by Dawn’s framing camera on May 3, 2011, from a distance of about 1.2 million kilometers (750,000 miles). Vesta is inside the white glow at the center of the image. The giant asteroid reflects so much sunlight that its size is dramatically exaggerated at this exposure.
Vesta is 330 miles (530 kilometers) in diameter and the second most massive object in the asteroid belt. But, in Dawn’s early approach images, Vesta only appears approximately five pixels across in size.
This and other images help Dawn fine tune navigation during its approach to Vesta, with arrival expected on July 16, 2011.
Ion Engines are the most exciting new rocket propulsion system since the Chinese invented the rocket about a thousand years ago.
Most rocket engines use chemical reactions for power. They combine various gases and liquids to form chemical explosions which push the rocket through space. Chemical rocket engines tend to be powerful but have a short lifetime.
The Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. It is a project of the Discovery Program managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. UCLA, is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., designed and built the Dawn spacecraft.
The framing cameras have been developed and built under the leadership of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany, with significant contributions by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin, and in coordination with the Institute of Computer and Communication Network Engineering, Braunschweig. The framing camera project is funded by the Max Planck Society, DLR, and NASA.
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
The Gamma Ray and Neutron Detector (GRaND) instrument interactive illustrates how scientists learn about the composition of an asteroid by studying energy and neutrons that emanate from it. The Dawn spacecraft contains three instruments (GRaND, Visible Infrared Spectrometer, and the Framing Camera) that will provide new answers to questions about the formation and evolution of the early solar system.
VIR is a Visual and Infrared Imaging Spectrometer in a single optical head. A Shafer telescope is combined with an Offner spectrometer. Spectral images are formed on two matrix detectors to cover the 0.25-1 µm and 1-5 µm ranges. The design uses a dual arm optical and focal design with mapping ability to 5 µm. more> http://tinyurl.com/3ldwmhe