A spacecraft launched in 2007 will soon slide into orbit around Vesta, the solar system’s second-heaviest asteroid.
Located 117 million miles from Earth, Vesta has a circumference of 329 miles. When NASA’s Dawn spacecraft arrives over the weekend of July 16, it will be the first human object to visit.
“It has taken nearly four years to get to this point,” said Dawn project manager Robert Mase of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a press release. “Our latest tests and check-outs show that Dawn is right on target and performing normally.”
Dawn navigated toward the asteroid belt, a space rock-rich zone between the solar system’s inner and outer planets, using gravitational energy from Mars and by firing its ion-powered thrusters. Its arrival at Vesta is expected at 1:00 a.m. EDT on July 16.
It will take 10 minutes and 30 seconds — the time it takes light from Vesta to reach Earth — for engineers to know if the operation succeeded.
Once in orbit, Dawn will hover about 9,900 miles above the asteroid’s surface for a year and use two different cameras, a gamma-ray detector and a neutron detector to study the object. Next July, Dawn’s ion thrusters will fire up and slowly propel the spacecraft toward the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the Asteroid Belt.
Planetary scientists know very little about either Vesta or Ceres, but they suspect each has planet-like qualities. Vesta may have once had a molten core that oozed lava before going cold after a few million years. Ceres, meanwhile, may have an icy mantle and active mud volcanoes.
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I'm hoping in my life time we may see a man trip to Mars, however, it doesn't seem likely now with the Space Shuttle program being shutdown
Might be a good place to look for unobtanium ... to power my infinite improbability drive.
Shouldn't you go "Green" and set it up to run off of waste??
A Moon Base would be nice but I think we better severed for the time being colonizing our oceans... Think SeaQuest
Any solo activity would have been included in Julia's trashy Biography Channel Bio flick. Sandra Bullock's Bio mentions she is no where near the 'easy piece' Roberts has been if that's any consolation. If you can stand the Sally Field Boniva commercials I highly recommend watching Biography channel and the important stories of these women's sex lives in outer space. May I recommend this episode also. I didn't know Christina Applegate was part of the main Heavan's gate meteorite?
Heaven's Gate members believed that the planet Earth was about to be recycled (wiped clean, renewed, refurbished and rejuvenated), and that the only chance to survive was to leave it immediately and head for Heartbreak Hotel.