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Dawn spacecraft to blast off Sunday on mission to 2 asteroids
AP on Bakersfield Californian ^ | 7/5/07 | Alicia Chang - ap

Posted on 07/05/2007 12:40:25 PM PDT by NormsRevenge

NASA this weekend is set to launch a spacecraft that will journey to the asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter, a mission that involves a rendezvous with two of the solar system's largest asteroids.

Seeking clues about the birth of the solar system, the Dawn spacecraft will first encounter Vesta, the smaller of the two bodies, four years from now. In 2015, it will meet up with Ceres, which carries the status of both asteroid and, like Pluto, dwarf planet.

"We're trying to go back in time as well as to go out there in space," said planetary scientist Christopher Russell of University of California, Los Angeles, who is heading up the mission.

Weather permitting, Dawn is set to blast off Sunday afternoon from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on a Delta II rocket. The launch caps a tumultuous effort in which the $344 million mission was killed last year because of cost overruns and technical problems.

Ultimately, though, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, which manages the spacecraft, appealed to NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and got the project revived.

Adding to the drama, Ceres briefly flirted with planethood during last summer's scientific debate about whether Pluto is a planet. Both Pluto and Ceres were finally classified dwarf planets.

Vesta and Ceres are believed to have evolved in different parts of the solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago around the same time as the formation of the rocky planets including Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. Scientists believe the asteroids' growth was stunted by Jupiter's gravitational pull and never had the chance to become full-fledged planets.

Images by the Hubble Space Telescope show Vesta and Ceres as geologically diverse.

Mysteries abound: Why are Vesta and Ceres so different? How do size and water affect planet formation? What does the evolution of the asteroids say about Earth's formation?

Vesta, which measures 326 miles across, is dry and pocked with a deep impact crater in its southern hemisphere. By contrast, Ceres, about twice as large as Vesta, has a dusty surface covered by what appears to be an ice shell and may even contain water inside.

When Dawn reaches each asteroid, first Vesta in 2011, it will orbit each body, photographing the surface and studying the asteroid's interior makeup, density and magnetism. Pictures and data will be sent back to Earth.

Dawn will be powered by ion propulsion instead of conventional rocket fuel, making it more fuel-efficient and allowing it to cruise between the asteroids and lower itself to about 125 miles above the surface to study them in depth.

Although previous spacecraft have explored smaller asteroids, researchers hope Dawn will shed light on the solar system's origins.

"If you want to understand the Earth, it's important to understand how it came to be and that's where asteroids come in. They're the building blocks," said Jay Melosh, a planetary geologist at the University of Arizona who has no role of the Dawn mission.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: asteroids; blastoff; ceres; dawn; dawnspacecraft; nasa; spacecraft; vesta

1 posted on 07/05/2007 12:40:26 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
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Dawn Spacecraft Prepares for Launch July 8, 2007

http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/


2 posted on 07/05/2007 12:41:06 PM PDT by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi ... For want of a few good men, a once great nation was lost.)
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To: NormsRevenge

I hope the research includes finding ways to keep one these suckers from whacking the earth.


3 posted on 07/05/2007 12:44:14 PM PDT by AU72
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To: AU72

That should keep the Klingons off Uranus.


4 posted on 07/05/2007 12:45:08 PM PDT by massgopguy (I owe everything to George Bailey)
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To: NormsRevenge

I think it’s silly to talk about the asteroid belt and learning about the solar system’s origins. Silly. It’s obvious the asteroid belt and Oort cloud of comets are the remains of an exploded planet. One half of Mercury is as smooth as a baby’s butt, and the other half is pock-marked by impacts— consistent with a sudden explosion. It would also explain where Mars’ atmosphere and water went.


5 posted on 07/05/2007 12:45:20 PM PDT by Bladerunnuh
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To: NormsRevenge

Bruce Willis on either of the flights?


6 posted on 07/05/2007 12:45:49 PM PDT by joonbug
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To: NormsRevenge

I hope it goes. If not the launch will be delayed for months in order to get the next Mars probe launched within it’s window.


7 posted on 07/05/2007 12:46:15 PM PDT by saganite (Billions and billions and billions----and that's just the NASA budget!)
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To: saganite

The weather looks like a mixed bag at this point..

http://www.wunderground.com/cgi-bin/findweather/getForecast?query=cape+canaveral%2Cfl


8 posted on 07/05/2007 12:49:12 PM PDT by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi ... For want of a few good men, a once great nation was lost.)
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To: joonbug

No Bruce on this mission, one of these days maybe, after he cranks out another DieHard. ;-)


9 posted on 07/05/2007 12:50:35 PM PDT by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi ... For want of a few good men, a once great nation was lost.)
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To: NormsRevenge

Hopefully they’ll remember to reconcile the measurement units and calibrate the camera focus before launch this time.

Ceresly...


10 posted on 07/05/2007 12:50:45 PM PDT by Jack of all Trades (Liberalism: replacing backbones with wishbones.)
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To: NormsRevenge

Well then, he could be on the mission cuz the latest die hard is in theatres. I think.


11 posted on 07/05/2007 12:54:57 PM PDT by saganite (Billions and billions and billions----and that's just the NASA budget!)
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To: saganite

Just saw it yesterday, they blow’d a lot of stuff up, lots of good special effects,, even slipped a JSF F-35 in at the end,, I’ll give it a thumb and half for entertainment value, they hammed it up a bit, to say the least.


12 posted on 07/05/2007 12:57:12 PM PDT by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi ... For want of a few good men, a once great nation was lost.)
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To: NormsRevenge

They’ve got until July 11th so barring another technical glitch they should be able to find a good weather day in that time.


13 posted on 07/05/2007 12:57:20 PM PDT by saganite (Billions and billions and billions----and that's just the NASA budget!)
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To: saganite

.. they should be able to find a good weather day in that time.

I sure hope so.. I hope Daytona is dry Saturday Night too. Pepsi 400. :-)


14 posted on 07/05/2007 12:59:24 PM PDT by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi ... For want of a few good men, a once great nation was lost.)
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To: NormsRevenge

I hope Daytona is dry Saturday Night too. Pepsi 400. :-)

Me too. Newman needs to win one.


15 posted on 07/05/2007 1:00:49 PM PDT by saganite (Billions and billions and billions----and that's just the NASA budget!)
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To: NormsRevenge
And the best part is you don't have to wake up early to see it!

Sunday's launch window will extend from 4:04 to 4:33 p.m. EDT

16 posted on 07/05/2007 1:06:06 PM PDT by NonValueAdded (Brian J. Marotta, 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub, (1948-2007) Rest In Peace, our FRiend)
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To: KevinDavis

ping


17 posted on 07/05/2007 1:06:49 PM PDT by nuke rocketeer
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To: NormsRevenge

18 posted on 07/05/2007 1:28:22 PM PDT by TexasCajun
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To: NormsRevenge

New headline:

“...and everything went fine till they accidently bumped one and now it’s on a earthward-plunging orbit...”


19 posted on 07/05/2007 1:29:24 PM PDT by baclava
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To: Jeff Head

Someone’s been reading your novel ping.


20 posted on 07/05/2007 1:42:44 PM PDT by Disambiguator
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To: NormsRevenge

Delta Dawn?


21 posted on 07/05/2007 1:46:54 PM PDT by OSHA (Liberals will lick the boot on their necks if they think the other boot is on yours and mine.)
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To: TexasCajun

Packing a nice payload too..

http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/technology/index.asp

ion propulsion engine,, a spiffy craft.. ;-)


22 posted on 07/05/2007 1:54:43 PM PDT by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi ... For want of a few good men, a once great nation was lost.)
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http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/dawn_fact_sheet.pdf


23 posted on 07/05/2007 1:55:04 PM PDT by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi ... For want of a few good men, a once great nation was lost.)
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Science Payload:

http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/science/technology.asp


Framing Camera : German Aerospace Center, DLR, Institute of Space Sensor Technology and Planetary Exploration, Berlin.


Mapping Spectrometer : The Institute for Astrophysics in Space (IAFS), Rome


Gamma Ray and Neutron Spectrometer : Los Alamos


24 posted on 07/05/2007 1:56:17 PM PDT by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi ... For want of a few good men, a once great nation was lost.)
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