Many folks would like to see us back on the Moon and developing its resources.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dawn Explores Vesta’s Chemistry

When you read science fiction it seems easy to travel to the stars.
Warp drive engaged and you are there in almost no time at all.

We don't have warp drive yet nor have we been able to use the materials of an asteroid to build spaceships off planet.

It is easy to say we should send humans to far away places to explore, but harder to achieve.
Testing our tools with spacecraft missions sounds good too and here at least we have a beginning.
Ion propulsion is being put to the test to provide long term acceleration.

If you have thought about going to the stars you should find Paul Gilster's blog most informative.

Dawn Explores Vesta’s Chemistry

by Paul Gilster on January 20, 2012

The Dawn spacecraft, orbiting Vesta since July of last year, reached its lowest altitude orbit in December, now averaging 210 kilometers from the asteroid’s surface. Ceres is Dawn’s next stop, but that journey won’t begin until the close-in work at Vesta is complete, with the craft in its low altitude mapping orbit for at least ten weeks and then another period at higher altitudes before Dawn leaves Vesta in late July. The spacecraft’s Gamma Ray and Neutron Detector (GRaND) instrument is already telling us much about the giant asteroid’s surface composition.


Much at JPL's web page as well.
- LRK -

DAWN A Journey to the Beginning of the Solar System
Dawn, as a mission belonging to NASA’s Discovery Program, delves into the unknown, drives new technology innovations, and achieves what's never been attempted before. In Dawn’s case, it is orbiting  one member of the main asteroid belt, Vesta, before heading to gather yet more data at a second, Ceres.

Dawn's goal is to characterize the conditions and processes of the solar system's earliest epoch by investigating in detail two of the largest protoplanets remaining intact since their formations. Ceres and Vesta reside in the extensive zone between Mars and Jupiter together with many other smaller bodies, called the asteroid belt.  Each has followed a very different evolutionary path constrained by
the diversity of processes that operated during the first few million years of solar system evolution.


You can follow the DAWN mission at NASA.
- LRK -

DAWN Journey to the Asteroid Belt

PASADENA, Calif. – NASA's Dawn spacecraft has sent back the first images of the giant asteroid Vesta from its low-altitude mapping orbit. The images, obtained by the framing camera, show the stippled and lumpy surface in detail never seen before, piquing the curiosity of scientists who are studying Vesta for clues about the solar system's early history.

At this detailed resolution, the surface shows abundant small craters, and textures such as small grooves and lineaments that are reminiscent of the structures seen in low-resolution data from the higher-altitude orbits. Also, this fine scale highlights small outcrops of bright and dark material.

The flight isn't over yet either.
- LRK -


Goals: Dawn is designed to study the conditions and processes of the solar system's earliest epoch by investigating in detail two of the largest protoplanets remaining intact since their formations. The orbiter will visit both the asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres, two main asteroid belt worlds that followed very differently evolutionary paths.

Accomplishments: Dawn arrived in orbit at asteroid Vesta on 16 June 2011. It will depart for Ceres in 2012.

Ooops, Last chance to send your name to the Asteroid Belt, November 4, 2006.
- LRK -

DAWN Community

Send your name to the asteroid belt on the Dawn spacecraft. Your name will be recorded onto a microchip that will be placed aboard the spacecraft accompanying it on its mission to the asteroid belt. After entering your name below, you will have the opportunity to print a document that verifies your journey aboard the spacecraft.

We are experiencing unusually high volume. If you receive an error message on your certificate, please wait a short while and resubmit. Please note, the database does not recognize entries with apostrophes.

After you hit submit a new page will appear. Print this page as it will be your only opportunity.
[Note: Error, error, error - looks like my name won't catch up with DAWN. :-) - LRK -]

If you went to the web site above you will find some broken links.
If you chose to go on a 50 year mission to a star I wonder if your adventure would be forgotten.
- LRK -

Even planetary missions take a long time to plan and launch.
You need to be dedicated to work your way through the many parts of making it happen.
- LRK -

BepiColombo overview
Being built and tested

One of ESA’s cornerstone missions, it will study and understand the composition, geophysics, atmosphere, magnetosphere and history of Mercury, the least explored planet in the inner Solar System.
PR 40-1999: ESA's Mercury Mission Named BepiColombo in Honour of a Space Pioneer

29 Sep 1999
Meeting in Naples 20-23 September, the European Space Agency's Science Programme Committee recognised the achievements of the late Giuseppe Colombo of the University of Padua by adopting his name for the Mercury project now being planned. Almost everything known until now about the planet Mercury comes from three passes by NASA's Mariner 10 in 1974/75, which were inspired by Colombo's calculations. He suggested how to put that spacecraft into an orbit that would bring it back repeatedly to Mercury. The Italian scientist also explained, as an unsuspected resonance, Mercury's peculiar habit of rotating three times in every two revolutions of the Sun.
Aerojet and Partners to Market Ion Propulsion Internationally
Posted by Doug Messier on June 22, 2011, at 7:35 am in News

PARIS, Le Bourget and SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 21, 2011 – Aerojet, a GenCorp (NYSE: GY) company, QinetiQ, (LSE: QQ.L) and EADS Astrium Crisa, an EADS (PAR:EAD) company, announced today that the companies have entered into a joint agreement to supply the XENITH(TM) (Xenon Ion Thruster) ion propulsion system to the worldwide commercial spacecraft market. The agreement will enable customers to benefit from the combined expertise of independent market leaders in design, manufacture and supply of space propulsion systems, who are collaborating to deliver the XENITH(TM) system.

Built around the ultra high-efficient T6 ion thruster developed by QinetiQ, the XENITH(TM) propulsion system will provide a reduction in propellant consumed by more than a factor of 12 over conventional chemical propulsion systems. Ion propulsion systems have been used for orbit raising and station keeping of satellites, as well as for primary propulsion for deep space missions.

The T6 ion propulsion technology is based on the lower power T5 system, which provides precision atmospheric drag compensation for the highly successful GOCE gravity mapping mission operated by ESA. A T6-based propulsion system is being qualified for the European Bepi-Colombo mission to Mercury and has been selected to provide onboard propulsion for the Alphabus communications satellite platform. QinetiQ provides the thruster and flow control subsystem, while Crisa provides the thruster power and control electronics.

“The joint effort with Aerojet and Crisa to market the XENITH(TM) propulsion system is a significant step toward delivering QinetiQ’s proven ion propulsion technology for much wider use worldwide,” said Neil Bevan, QinetiQ Technology Solutions, Managing Director of Aerospace.

Aerojet’s electric propulsion products are currently flying on more than 150 operational satellites and span a broad range of electric propulsion products. For the XENITH(TM) system, Aerojet will perform some of the manufacturing, under a licensed arrangement with QinetiQ, and then integrate and deliver the system to spacecraft primes.


And when you include humans on a space mission there are a lot more new products that need to be developed to provide a safe, habitable environment.
Wouldn't that be nice, and might they just be useful for those that remain on an ever crowded Mother Earth.
Just think of us living on Spaceship Earth and what would you like from the food synthesizer?
What would you like for a beverage?
Shields up, incoming asteroid.
- LRK -

Thanks for looking up with me.
- LRK -

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I am enjoying reading Paul Gilser's book, "CENTAURI DREAMS - Imagining
and Planning Interstellar Exploration".
Kermit Ellis
This review is from: Centauri Dreams: Imagining and Planning
Interstellar Exploration (Hardcover)
It will be surprising to many people that the initial planning of
humanity's first voyages to the stars has already begun. Those of us
who grew up in the early days of the American space program, and whose
vision of the future assumed that by the end of the twentieth century
space flight would be commonplace and relatively easy, and who assumed
that manned missions to Mars and further would be the next step within
several years after the Apollo moon landings, became impatient with
the slow and methodical pace of space exploration carried out in the
immediate vicinity of Earth and by robotic probes sent about the Solar
System- even though these missions were usually brilliantly planned
and executed.


Imagine the historic moment when the first Earth-like planet is
detected deep across interstellar space. Like an inaccessible jewel it
will beckon us. Is this a future home for humanity? What forms of life
are already there? How do we get there? What happens when we arrive?

Based on today's technology, traveling to the stars is a long-term
proposition. While existing space agencies grapple with sending
astronauts beyond Earth orbit, and entrepreneurial firms bring the
thrill of spaceflight to the people, no one has taken on the challenge
of reaching other habitable worlds; until now.

The Tau Zero Foundation is a volunteer group of scientists, engineers,
entrepreneurs, and writers who have agreed to work together toward
practical interstellar flight and to use this quest to teach you about
science, technology, and our place in the universe. By posting the
latest developments and unfinished advancements here, we give students
the starting materials to begin their own discoveries. By showing both
how daunting and incredible this challenge is, we hope to increase
attention on protecting the habitability of Earth while planning
journeys into the galaxy. By reaching for the stars we will create
benefits every step of the way.

The Incredible Ions of Space Propulsion

June 16, 2000 -- In the not so distant past when spacecraft designers
had to choose a means of propulsion for their ships, ion engines were
not among the viable options for long-range space travel. But today,
thanks to the pioneering efforts of scientists at the NASA Glenn
Research Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), ion
propulsion systems are a reality.

Dr. John Brophy, of JPL, discussed the past, present and future of ion
propulsion systems during a session last week at the 11th annual
Advanced Space Propulsion Research Workshop in Pasadena, CA.

After a development history spanning nearly 40 years and following the
successful flight of Deep Space 1 in 1998-1999, ion propulsion has now
entered the mainstream of propulsion options available for deep-space
missions, according to an abstract written by Brophy.



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