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NASA Space Science

NASA Probe Orbiting Asteroid Vesta 132

astroengine writes "Mission managers of NASA's Dawn asteroid probe had a long Saturday, waiting for news from the asteroid belt. Eventually they got the news they were hoping for: Dawn had entered Vesta orbit. This is the first time in history that an object in the asteroid belt has been orbited by an artificial satellite. It's taken four years for the ion thruster-propelled spacecraft to reach the asteroid and there was some uncertainty as to whether the probe had been captured by the asteroid's gravity at all. But after a long period of waiting, mission managers received the signal after Dawn was able to orientate its antenna toward Earth."
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NASA Probe Orbiting Asteroid Vesta

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  • Ah, Vesta first (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Sunday July 17, 2011 @02:13PM (#36793894)


    Dawn will remain in orbit around Vesta for a year, before gently boosting away to begin the trip to Ceres, the second half of its asteroid belt adventure.

    That was actually my first thought: "Why is this visiting Vesta [] and not Ceres? []" Ceres (might) have surface water and an atmosphere, so it makes more sense as a base. Its also larger (about 4 times the mass/size, although, surprisingly, it has nearly the same gravity, .027g to Vesta's .022g) and looks one hell of a lot more interesting. I mean, both are just big rocks in space, but Ceres is actually dwarf planet class and looks like it could serve as a quite effective base for more missions past the asteroid belt.

    Of course, visiting both makes sense. Vesta may have also been a nice test run for gravitational capture, since it doesn't have an atmosphere and its smaller, but has similar gravity. Establishing a (manned) base in the asteroid belt seems like it could be an enormous step forward in space. The asteroids could potentially be mined, providing a financial incentive to visit, plus their low gravity makes them easy to escape after loading up on fuel/ore or for constructing spacecraft (anyone else think the idea of a spaceship factory in the asteroid belts is pretty cool?). All in all, this is a pretty cool (if pretty small) step forward in getting off this rock. I can see why Obama wants to send an astronaut to the belt by 2025, even if I know it'll probably take till 2040 or so.

  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday July 17, 2011 @04:03PM (#36794464) Journal

    The asteroid in question is called Apophis [] and I'd say the bitch of the thing is not that it could hit us in 2029 (very very unlikely) but that it could swing close enough to earth in 2029 as to have its orbit nudged thus setting us up for an impact in 2036.

    This to me would seem like a perfect cause to get the government to invest in NASA as per the earlier article posted here, as having a beacon placed on Apophis to keep track of the sucker and ensure we are able to accurately predict its orbit would be a smart move. Its next pass will be in 2013 which isn't a lot of time but should be time enough to prep a probe to land on it and plant a beacon.

  • by deglr6328 ( 150198 ) on Sunday July 17, 2011 @04:43PM (#36794680)

    "....Patriotism has no place in science."

    Patriotism may have no place in science, but science unquestionably has a place in patriotism.
    I'm proud that my country built and operates the Tevatron which discovered the top quark, I'm proud we built the world's most powerful laser, the National Ignition Facility which is on the verge of demonstrating controlled thermonuclear fusion in a laboratory, I'm proud we were the first to decipher the 3 billion letter sequence of the human genome, I'm proud we invented the transistor, the laser, the nuclear reactor and the Polio vaccine that is on the verge of wiping that disease from the face of the Earth forever, I'm proud we engineered the microcomputer revolution and invented the internet those machines operate on, I'm proud we were the first to robotically explore every planet in the solar system with the exception of Venus and sent probes into interstellar space, and I'm proud of a thousand other things my country did to push back the darkness of ignorance about the physical world, thereby elevating the human condition to previously unimagined heights. And I hope that someday, instead of being proud of something as stupid as military might, or the number of gold medals we win in the Olympics, that my countrymen can join me in the more nuanced and altruistic flavor of patriotism that I am proudly guilty of indulging in. My style of patriotism is anything but the last refuge of scoundrels, and scientific achievement plays a central role in its maintenance.

  • by Tenebrousedge ( 1226584 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (egdesuorbenet)> on Sunday July 17, 2011 @08:16PM (#36795658)

    There is no such thing as a good form of patriotism, unless it is dissent. The US has plundered the world to enrich an astonishingly small minority, and you're saying it's okay because a dollar or two fell into the science bucket along the way? Our contributions fo human suffering dwarf our contributions to knowledge. Patriotism is evil, just one more way to deny our common humanity and place ourselves above others.

    Allow me to quote:

    Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. -- Dwight D. Eisenhower

    America has nothing to be proud of. We are tyrants, criminals, and murderers all, not to mention the way we've polluted the earth so that our children's children will curse our names. Altruistic patriotism? The third world thanks you for your most benign munificence. It's a thin shroud to drag over two centuries of violent imperialism; you delude none but yourself, and display only conceit. You have allowed yourself to fall into comfortable ignorance, an ignorance of the world outside your borders, an ignorance not only free from want or suffering but free from their conception. The world entire is brimming with pain, and has no use for armchair altruism or fools who rest on the laurels of others and naively hope for change. They sow the wind, that shall yet reap the whirlwind.

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