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NASA Probe Orbiting Asteroid Vesta

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the checking-things-out dept.

NASA 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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132 comments

I'm heard at hearing (0)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 2 years ago | (#36793720)

What , Vesta is on steroids ???

Re:I'm heard at hearing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36794986)

In the future, please make jokes in your first language only. Thanks.

Re:I'm heard at hearing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36795878)

I thought he did, he made a joke in Stupid.

"Doomsday Asteroid?" (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36793728)

Wow, what loathsome editing by Discovery: they injected a video clip about a "Doomsday Asteroid" wiping out the earth into the middle of an article about Dawn visiting Vesta. The two are unrelated, but the juxtaposition somehow makes it sound like NASA is fulfilling some Hollywood fantasy about visiting the asteroid that will come smashing into Earth unless we send [current B-rate movie star] on the now-defunct Space Shuttle to nuke it.

Re:"Doomsday Asteroid?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36794222)

somehow makes it sound like NASA is fulfilling some Hollywood fantasy about visiting the asteroid that will come smashing into Earth unless we send [current B-rate movie star] on the now-defunct Space Shuttle to nuke it.

Hmmmmm.

Alright! Get this! Combine Space Cowboys with Armageddon!

Ok, ok, ok ....some old astronauts blackmail NASA to send them up and get the Shuttle out of retirement - they'll take if off of some space museum diner. We'll get Megan Fox to be their granddaughter with some tearful family schmaltz. Oh yeah, and there'll be a car chase and a shootout - one of the old farts goes bonkers and happens to have smuggled a .44 Magnum up there.

Huh?!? huh?!? What'd ya think?!

I just need a hundred million to do it.

--Lamo Hollywood Producer (yeah, that's about all of 'em)

Re:"Doomsday Asteroid?" (4, Funny)

retroworks (652802) | more than 2 years ago | (#36794300)

Actually, I just watched the video, and it's related to the story. The "doomsday asteroid" video is mostly an interview with NASA Senior Scientist Joseph A. Nuth III. When Discovery questions him about strategies for the 1/45,000 chance of an asteroid hitting the earth in calendar year 2029. When asked about real strategies for dealing with an impending asteroid impact, Nuth explains that a lack of data or record of observation of the asteroid belt makes strategies rather futile. Whether to paint it to use solar reflection power, or blowing it up, etc., requires closer observation of the asteroid belt... which is background justification for Vesta's trip to the asteroid belt.

As for "juxtaposition", the story appears in July, the seventh month of the year. According to dictionary.com, the seventh month of the "civil year" is also called the "Nisan" or "Nissan" (from the Asyrian calendar) So this article is about the Nissan Vesta.

Re:"Doomsday Asteroid?" (4, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#36794464)

The asteroid in question is called Apophis [wikipedia.org] 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.

Re:"Doomsday Asteroid?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36794338)

"on the now-defunct Space Shuttle to nuke it."

By far my favorite part of that movie was watching those Space Shuttles zoom around and thinking "if only!"

Re:"Doomsday Asteroid?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36794406)

I must be old, but was Bruce Willis really consider B-rate at the time of Armageddon?

Re:"Doomsday Asteroid?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36795660)

heheheehhe hard core

Grammar nazi alert (1, Offtopic)

cvtan (752695) | more than 2 years ago | (#36793744)

I found this: "Orientate is more widely accepted in the U.K. than in the U.S.A., but it should be avoided in any formal or standard writing." Of course, correcting poor usage is WAY more important than orbiting an asteroid.

Re:Grammar nazi alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36793756)

It's no worse than "burglarize" which yanks have a strange fondness for.

Re:Grammar nazi alert (2, Funny)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#36793834)

Also not quite as bad as that curious predilection those in the UK have of ending a written sentence with a preposition.

Re:Grammar nazi alert (0)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 2 years ago | (#36793904)

Grammar misuse is like any other form of miscommunication. If you want to be clear, unambiguous, then use the language properly. If you want to sound like a dolt, then do what you want. It is no different than accepting a standard set of units - when you and your co-workers screw up, your spacecraft has a problem.

Re:Grammar nazi alert (1, Offtopic)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#36794002)

Standardisation of grammar and spelling is only recently an attribute of English. Indeed, if one wishes to be clear and unambiguous, one should not use such an illogical language, such a language of overloaded words, as that confounded mishmash known as English.

Re:Grammar nazi alert (0)

Tim12s (209786) | more than 2 years ago | (#36793938)

You shouldn't start a sentence with a joining word unless you are continuing one of your sentences.

Re:Grammar nazi alert (0)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#36793950)

This is an internet forum; I should therefore enjoy the liberty of using a joining word to continue other's sentences.

Re:Grammar nazi alert (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#36796902)

You shouldn't start a sentence with a joining word unless you are continuing one of your sentences.

Or?

Re:Grammar nazi alert (0)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#36793982)

"to have a fondness for" is a verb.

Splitting the infinitive of it is a question of taste, but it's a complete verb in itself.

Re:Grammar nazi alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36794474)

"to have a fondness for" is a verb.

Splitting the infinitive of it is a question of taste, but it's a complete verb in itself.

No, "to have" is the verb.

Re:Grammar nazi alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36793908)

would it be to burgle? i would normally say burglarize but will from now on say it as burgle cause it looks as though it is so.

Re:Grammar nazi alert (0)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#36793928)

Or "winningest"... *shudder*.

I think I just had a small stroke while typing that.

Re:Grammar nazi alert (3, Funny)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | more than 2 years ago | (#36794048)

I think I just had a small stroke while typing that.

Masturbation does seem to be a common part of this thread.

Re:Grammar nazi alert (1, Offtopic)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#36793922)

I married my Chinese wife and she went to orientate my apartment with a rice steamer, chopsticks, various curry powders, jade and bright red and gold wall hangings,

Re:Grammar nazi alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36794168)

You don't marry your wife, you marry your fiancée (or girlfriend/whatever). She then becomes your wife.

Re:Grammar nazi alert (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#36794372)

Just like you can't "buy your car", because it's not your car until after you buy it. Sure. Not.

Re:Grammar nazi alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36794194)

She orientalized your apartment.
Do you have a balcony where she can keep the chickens and dogs?

Re:Grammar nazi alert (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#36796878)

I found this: "Orientate is more widely accepted in the U.K. than in the U.S.A., but it should be avoided in any formal or standard writing."

Whether something is accepted doesn't say anything about whether it's acceptable. It appears to be widely accepted to say "burglarize" instead of "burgle", and "utilize" instead of "use", but that doesn't pardon doing so.

Of course, correcting poor usage is WAY more important than orbiting an asteroid.

Given that choice, I would definitely recommend the former.

The amazing thing about many-to-many communication like this forum is that you don't derail a conversation by expanding on the topic by commenting on what others have said. You just expand the discussion. Topic drift isn't just a possibility, it's a certainty, and you are free to skip parts that have drifted in a direction you don't like. Like the subthread called "Grammar nazi alert" which you started.

Sending astronauts? (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 2 years ago | (#36793762)

In only 14 years from now? I highly doubt it. Besides being a dumb idea, the US can't even put a man into earth orbit anymore. What makes anybody think they'll be sending anybody into deep space any time soon? Unless it's part of the war effort, it just ain't gonna happen

Re:Sending astronauts? (3, Insightful)

wsxyz (543068) | more than 2 years ago | (#36793818)

Vesta is a Taliban stronghold.

They're sending a UAV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36793914)

Come on. UAVs over Afghanistan, Earth are flown from Los Vegas, Nevada, Earth. Why would they send people to outer space instead of using a remotely piloted vehicle? Remotely piloted vehicles have a good track record in outer space.

Re:They're sending a UAV (2)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#36794690)

Maybe the quarter second signal lag vs the 30 minute signal lag has something to do with it? You cannot effectively remotely pilot things much beyond the Moon's orbit; and Vesta is definitely much beyond the Moon's orbit.

Re:They're sending a UAV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36796194)

Don't speak common sense and science around here. This is Slashdot! The bastion of knee jerk political reactions to things scientific presented by the non-scientific.

Re:Sending astronauts? (4, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#36793854)

Why are you so fixated on U.S. capabilities, it only matters that mankind can put people into orbit, and the U.S. space program has a large number of useful missions in progress or soon to launch, and many as collaboration with other nations. Patriotism has no place in science.

Re:Sending astronauts? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36793912)

Patriotism has no place in science.

Another socialist citizen of the world heard from.

Re:Sending astronauts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36793932)

Arrest this communist!

Re:Sending astronauts? (2)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 2 years ago | (#36794018)

Patriotism has no place in science.

Heh, I actually agree with that, but ultimately there will be war between the space people and the earth people, exactly in the same fashion that we make war against our African/Middle East ancestors.

Mutiny on the Skylab [libcom.org]

Re:Sending astronauts? (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 2 years ago | (#36795776)

And the correct scientific response on being drawn in to one of these "war" things (science doesn't really get "war", it's all sociology) is to take the course of least harm. Many scientists from both "sides" of WWII worked on the Manhattan Project because they believed that was less harmful than letting Nazi's develop atomic weapons. >/Godwin

Re:Sending astronauts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36795854)

First time I heard that the Axis were involved in the Manhattan Project.

The Manhattan Project was the effort, led by the United States with participation from the United Kingdom and Canada, which resulted in the development of the first atomic bomb during World War II. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Army component of the project was designated the Manhattan District or Manhattan Engineer District (MED), but "Manhattan" gradually superseded the official codename, "Development of Substitute Materials", for the entire project.

Straight from Wikipedia.

Am i calling you a liar? Yes, yes I am.
Am i going to be a coward and hide behind AC? Also yes!

Re:Sending astronauts? (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 2 years ago | (#36796256)

And the correct scientific response on being drawn in to one of these "war" things (science doesn't really get "war", it's all sociology) is to take the course of least harm.

"Least harm", "biggest boom", "what the heck, let's just nuke the upper stratosphere and see what happens"... one of those courses, certainly.

Re:Sending astronauts? (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 2 years ago | (#36796224)

ultimately there will be war between the space people and the earth people

Which will last approximately 2 months and end when the groundlubbers stop the launch of the next Progress/Verne capsule full of food, oxygen and water, and the skydogs realise that their station is filling up with lots of bottles of unrecycled pee.

To give them due credit, the Space Revolutionary Forces did launch a bold surprise bombardment of Star City with 1000 litres of frozen pee, which would have even succeeded in reaching the upper atmosphere if they had had any propellant left in their thruster tanks to achieve de-orbit. However, since the only launcher available was a rubber band salvaged from the exercise treadmill, the Glorious Revolutionary Homecan is now surrounded by the small ice cloud known as the Strategic Revolutionary Pee Reserve.

Re:Sending astronauts? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36794166)

HAHA!

"mankind" ?

I take it you mean WHITE people?

"Patriotism has no place in science."

Don't you mean "Patriotism has no place in a modern society", or "Insert-anything-not-left-of-Lenin-here has no place in a modern society"?

You moron. The US is being destroyed by third world invaders, and everybody knows it, especially idiots like you. I wonder what it will take for you to ever admit you're wrong. You probably won't even admit you were wrong about "We're all the same" when your own house is being burnt to the ground by a mob of non-whites... Idiot.

When is AFRICA going to put a man into space? Or do anything of any value whatsoever?

Re:Sending astronauts? (1)

mywhitewolf (1923488) | more than 2 years ago | (#36795968)

well. "non whites" are a large group there, are you just angry at the people with recent African decent? the reason why Africa is mostly a shit-fest has mostly to do with religion and corruption, and being white doesn't protect you from either. (in fact western countries have a tendency to encourage and support corruption). So before you think its due to you're race that you're country has made any significant contributions to humanity, you're race is also attributed with the worst acts of genocide and destruction too.

we are the way we are because of 1 thing.. money. any other difference is superficial at best. give blacks money and they create things like Dubai & the great pyramids. Take money away from whites and you get things like Argentina.

tl;dr
it work both ways and your bigotry is offensive.

Re:Sending astronauts? (3, Interesting)

deglr6328 (150198) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Patriotism is not compatible with science (4, Insightful)

rocket rancher (447670) | more than 2 years ago | (#36795130)

Science is a collaborative effort. Nearly every advance the parent cited can be traced back to development work done by people who were not born in the US. Von Braun, Tsiolkovsky, and Fermi come to mind immediately, along with Einstein, Turing, Goedel, Bohr, Pauling, Dirac, Mendeleev, and Roentgen. National pride is fine, but it rings kinda hollow when one is aware of just how connected all scientific advancement is. The idea that all of those achievements are somehow the sole purview of the US is absurd.

Re:Sending astronauts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36795330)

In Canada, we got the Canad-arm for the space shuttle. Or, as some folk like to call it, "The Astro-Groper".

Re:Sending astronauts? (5, Interesting)

Tenebrousedge (1226584) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Sending astronauts? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#36795942)

You use your tongue purtier than a five dollar whore...

Re:Sending astronauts? (1)

Tenebrousedge (1226584) | more than 2 years ago | (#36796578)

Why yes, I did type that with my tongue. How did you know?

I prefer concision and precision in writing, but time rarely permits me to really polish a slashdot post. Whereas you obviously stayed up all night writing that one. :P

Re:Sending astronauts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36796210)

You're conflating nationalism and patriotism. Common mistake.

Re:Sending astronauts? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36796464)

Who says it's a mistake? You could equivalently say tribalism. It all means, "I'm not like $people, I'm better, because I'm a $granfalloon!"

Re:Sending astronauts? (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 2 years ago | (#36796276)

I'm proud we built the world's most powerful laser, the National Ignition Facility... instead of being proud of something as stupid as military might

You might want to recalibrate your pridometer. The NIF's primary mission is what's euphemistically referred to as "stockpile stewardship [llnl.gov] " - keeping ageing thermonuclear weapons in tip-top megadeath condition. Any studies of nuclear fusion which don't occur with of chunks of plutonium being the spark plug are kind of a long way down the list.

Fortunately nuclear weapons have nothing to do with military might so carry on Science!

Re:Sending astronauts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36794810)

Der Asteroid gehört sowieso selbstverständlich dem Deutschen Reich.
Das deutsche Volk benötigt dringend Lebensweltraum.

Heil Kräuter!

Re:Sending astronauts? (1)

thrich81 (1357561) | more than 2 years ago | (#36795628)

Patriotism has historically had a huge place in space activities, especially early on. The first 15 years of manned space activities was all about patriotism and international competition; granted much of the manned programs weren't primarily about science. But the early unmanned lunar and planetary missions were very much international competitions between the US and the Soviets. For many, (probably most) of the taxpayers paying the bills the patriotic aspect of space science and any big science is a very important aspect. NASA and NSF are funded to a large extent so that "we don't fall behind". Americans have been faulted for excessive nationalism and patriotism, but the fact is that the US has more probes leaving the Solar System (that would be all of them) than any other country. The EU has more people and a bigger economy than the US, why aren't there rovers on Mars or probes leaving the Solar System with the EU flag on them; why isn't the EU space program on par with that of the US? Why aren't there Japanese rovers on Mars (I had high hopes for them when they became a technological and economic near-superpower in the '80s).

Re:Sending astronauts? (2)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#36793934)

Bodies don't explore space, probes do.

We have centuries to perfect the robotic systems we MUST have for the utterly hostile environment of space (and for more efficient work on Earth).

Re:Sending astronauts? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36794512)

The shuttle would have put the US no closer to the surface of an asteroid, for all practical purposes, than a child flying a kite on the ground. I'm all for the space program but the shuttle's usefulness as a platform was largely coming to an end anyway. Keeping it alive just so we could toot our horn of "being able to put a human into space" would have cost dollars that are better spent elsewhere.

Now, if we could just keep the presidents' mitts off of NASA's agenda and keep the mismanagement of NASA to a minimum we'd be getting somewhere.

Asteroid tourism? (1)

abuelos84 (1340505) | more than 2 years ago | (#36793812)

To the science-abled fellas in here: How would conditions for astronauts/cosmonauts visiting this bodies be?
Can they walk up there or would they need some sort of exo-skeleton or something with more space for sponsors...?

There are so many cool things about this mission!
ION FREAKING ENGINES!

Re:Asteroid tourism? (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36793966)

To the science-abled fellas in here: How would conditions for astronauts/cosmonauts visiting this bodies be? Can they walk up there or would they need some sort of exo-skeleton or something with more space for sponsors...?

Well, from Wikipedia the asteroid's gravitation field is .022g or about 1/50th of Earth's, so its basically micro-gravity. You could probably escape the gravitational field by jumping really hard, so tethers are probably a must for working outside. Exo-skeletons would probably hurt, rather than help, unless you meant just a space suit, which yes, is absolutely required. Not sure what "space for sponsors" even means, so....

There are so many cool things about this mission! ION FREAKING ENGINES!

Yes. Ion engines are cool. Delta-v is a bit low though (0-60mph in 4 days, which makes it almost as bad as a Yugo... I kid, I kid). Very useful for deep-space missions, but I can't wait until we get plasma engines, which could potentially have the efficiency of ion thrusters AND the thrust of chemical rockets.

Re:Asteroid tourism? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#36794428)

Well, from Wikipedia ... You could probably escape the gravitational field by jumping really hard, so tethers are probably a must for working outside.

From wikipedia the escape velocity is a big fraction of a kilometer per second... Jumping not a hazard.

Put that gravitational acceleration into the 1st semester physics kinematics equations and you will not be walking around down there. If I did my scaling factors and estimates correctly, each step bounding a couple times your height in the air, and each step taking a good part of a minute. Like lunar bunny hops, but worse.

Speaking of bunnies, to head off the inevitable pr0n questions, it would be a cross between orbital and lunar, nothing particularily qualitatively different. Probably pretty awkward.

Re:Asteroid tourism? (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#36794724)

When people live there the habitat will have to spin to simulate gravity because in the long term humans don't do well in microgravity. The weak gravity and ample resources make both of these rocks nice spots for spaceports, especially if they have substantial water. Ceres may have an astounding amount of water - more than all the fresh water on Earth.

This is Madness! (3, Insightful)

Comboman (895500) | more than 2 years ago | (#36793888)

The possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.

Re:This is Madness! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36794170)

I don't think NASA developed the Improbability Drive yet, but once the odds are infinitely improbable, they should do OK...

Ah, Vesta first (4, Interesting)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36793894)

FTFA:

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 [wikipedia.org] and not Ceres? [wikipedia.org] " 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.

Re:Ah, Vesta first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36794320)

FTFA:

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 [wikipedia.org] and not Ceres? [wikipedia.org] "

Why Vesta first? My guess is that it's probably easier to change orbits from Vesta to Ceres than the other way around. The current NASA way means boosting outward from the Sun all the way, as Ceres is farther out. Having to backtrack would kinda waste time and fuel for no reason.

Pitiful (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36794040)

The number of stupid comments here reinforces my suspicion that slashdot is now visited mostly by puerile adolescents.

uh oh... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36794088)

Guys: Really struggling with diarrhea here. So as much as I'd like to share some insight about the article, I just can't focus when I feel like I might have to run like a maniac to the toilet again at any moment. This sucks; It's like 90 degrees outside and I keep jetting sludge out of my backside every 20 minutes or so. I just want to crawl back into bed and die.

I promise as soon as I feel better, I'll be back to post because I really have a lot of opinions about this. I appreciate everyone's patience.

Pics or it didn't happen. (0)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | more than 2 years ago | (#36794124)

I'm annoyed by the lack of images from the Dawn team. Compared to other NASA probes, they've really skimped on the public images. (Every week or so they've posted a single image from the low-res navigation imager. Not even a complete sequence of Vesta's surface (it rotates every 5 hours, so not exactly difficult.)) I hope that isn't going to set the standard for the entire mission.

(They have an excuse for the insertion burn, but not during coasting.)

Re:Pics or it didn't happen. (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 2 years ago | (#36794240)

That's because the only images they have are from the low-res navigational imager. They will fire up the high res camera and other instruments now that they're in Vesta orbit.

Re:Pics or it didn't happen. (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | more than 2 years ago | (#36794322)

When the ion drive isn't running, there is plenty of power. There's no reason to not gather as much data as possible. After all, if something went bung during insertion (when the probe was out of comms with Earth) it would be the only data they have. Given the detail in the last image (from ten days ago), what prevented them from at least getting a full surface sequence?

Other NASA probes take images from distant approach, trying to milk as much data as they can before the arrive, as well as PR for the mission. I can't find an explanation of why the Dawn team have been so reticent to image their target. It doesn't bode well for the rest of the mission.

Re:Pics or it didn't happen. (3, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#36794410)

When the ion drive isn't running, there is plenty of power. There's no reason to not gather as much data as possible. After all, if something went bung during insertion (when the probe was out of comms with Earth) it would be the only data they have. Given the detail in the last image (from ten days ago), what prevented them from at least getting a full surface sequence?

Other NASA probes take images from distant approach, trying to milk as much data as they can before the arrive, as well as PR for the mission. I can't find an explanation of why the Dawn team have been so reticent to image their target. It doesn't bode well for the rest of the mission.

I can think of a theoretical reason that may or may not have any application to reality.

We know the asteroid's orbit and our (the earths) orbit from a zillion years of position observation. We don't know the vehicle's relative velocity to the asteroid, and thats kind of important to put it in orbit. In ye olden days the stereotypical way to figure orbits was to put what amounts to a crossband linear repeater on the vehicle and spend inordinate amounts of effort on the earth measuring the doppler shift of signals transmitted thru the repeater. In ye olden days that was best done using an continuous information free carrier CW tone. Now a days the youngin's probably use some sort of spread spectrum solution to avoid ionospheric scintillation or just to plain ole be cool? At any rate the radios would probably be busy doing the navigation-thing as opposed to the science-thing.

Now a "news for nerds tech site" could make an interesting article about how this mission did navigation...

Re:Pics or it didn't happen. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36796358)

*sigh* So much misinformation floating around here...

GP said

That's because the only images they have are from the low-res navigational imager. They will fire up the high res camera and other instruments now that they're in Vesta orbit.

Which is absolute bullshit, because there's only one science camera (well, two identical cameras, for redundancy), and it's currently getting crap resolution because it's ~2x10^7m away, while science orbits will range from 2x10^6 to 2x10^5m altitude. There's also the star trackers, which while technically cameras, are not used for imaging Vesta or Ceres at all.

When the ion drive isn't running, there is plenty of power. There's no reason to not gather as much data as possible. After all, if something went bung during insertion (when the probe was out of comms with Earth) it would be the only data they have. Given the detail in the last image (from ten days ago), what prevented them from at least getting a full surface sequence?

Other NASA probes take images from distant approach, trying to milk as much data as they can before the arrive, as well as PR for the mission. I can't find an explanation of why the Dawn team have been so reticent to image their target. It doesn't bode well for the rest of the mission.

(It's not a power issue, it's an attitude issue -- each of the three ion thrusters is gimbaled in a narrow range, and the high-gain antenna and cameras are fixed completely -- same result, though.)
The mission's design duty cycle for the IPS (ion propulsion system) is 95%; the remaining 5% of the time is divided between imaging Vesta and relaying data to DSN ground stations. There's certainly time for more pics than they've taken, but allocating more time for imaging and less for thrusting means postponing your arrival, which reduces your time for doing high-quality science in orbit.

Unlike many other missions, which use a chemical rocket to perform a Hohmann or similar transfer into a near-final orbit, with relatively small deltaV reserved for orbit adjustments, Dawn will be gradually spiraling in under power to reach any given orbit. It's completely free to stop thrusting at any point and coast in a nearly-circular orbit while doing science observations, then resume spiraling in later, though they will likely stick to the mission plan of 3 orbits (2700km, 950km, and 460km radius -- subtract ~280km to get altitude). So there's very little to gain from more low-res approach images that we won't already get from the two full-rotation sets already scheduled (and I presume completed) during approach, and especially the full surface mapping that will be done in the first (highest) orbit. For more info on the navigation imaging strategy, see the latest Dawn Journal [nasa.gov] .

The main issue is that they're not releasing the pictures they have -- particularly the full-rotation sets mentioned above, As I understand it this is mainly a manpower issue, but I certainly wish they could set up a low-overhead nerd-ready channel separate from their press-ready channel, so they could just dump all the images and let the bloggers sort 'em out.

What if they Pentagon bought more efficient A/C? (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#36794358)

I would not begrudge our soldiers in Afghanistan small comforts. But still I was taken aback by the news that Pentagon spends more on airconditioning barracks in Afghanistan than the entire NASA budget. If Pentagon bought some more efficient air conditioners without compromising comfort, may be we could fund a few more of these missions. Quite sad to see the congresscritters make grand statements about government waste and then ram their pet pork projects through defense appropriations.

Re:What if they Pentagon bought more efficient A/C (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#36794460)

I would not begrudge our soldiers in Afghanistan small comforts. But still I was taken aback by the news that Pentagon spends more on airconditioning barracks in Afghanistan than the entire NASA budget. If Pentagon bought some more efficient air conditioners without compromising comfort, may be we could fund a few more of these missions.

Sounds like it would be a heck of a lot more cost effective for NASA under DOD contract to launch a "solar umbrella" arrangement to cool Afghanistan. As a bonus we'd be able to use the required heavy lifter / orbital construction gear for other purposes. Finally we could sell advertising space on the solar umbrella.

As a side note, there are not many US barracks in the sandbox. They're air conditioning tents and trailers. I spent some time in the 90s baby sitting some computers in a US Army air conditioned trailer; We were very thankful the "computers required air conditioning", it was just a side effect that we got comfortable.

Re:What if they Pentagon bought more efficient A/C (4, Informative)

thrich81 (1357561) | more than 2 years ago | (#36794672)

If it makes you feel any better, (it did for me) that number ($20 billion) for air conditioning in Afghanistan is highly debatable and was put forward by a guy who was a brigadier general but now is in the private sector, selling technologies branded as energy-efficient to the Defense Department. More from the source article (http://www.npr.org/2011/06/25/137414737/among-the-costs-of-war-20b-in-air-conditioning): "Now it's important to note that wrapped up in Anderson's $20 billion figure are all kind of other expenditures – for instance, the cost of building and maintaining roads in Afghanistan, securing those roads, managing the security operations for those roads. That all costs a lot of money and is part of the overall war effort in Afghanistan." And, "The Pentagon disputes the calculation made by Anderson about air conditioning costs. Defense Department spokesman Dave Lapan says that in fiscal year 2010, the Pentagon spent approximately $15 billion on energy for all military operations around the world. The Pentagon says when it comes to Afghanistan, it spent $1.5 billion from October 2010 to May 2011 on fuel. That fuel was used for heating and air conditioning systems, but also for aircraft, unmanned aerial systems, combat vehicles, computers and electricity inside military structures."

Re:What if they Pentagon bought more efficient A/C (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#36795580)

Thanks for the information. Oddly I feel better knowing that Pentagon is not wasting that much. Sorry to have fallen for some marketers' spiel.

Re:What if they Pentagon bought more efficient A/C (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#36795984)

I've seen analysis that the number is about right, and that most of the cost is getting diesel out there for the generators.

I'm sure they could spray the tents with foam or something though to make it much more efficient. Tinfoil on the outside...?

Re:What if they Pentagon bought more efficient A/C (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36794926)

Maybe you were taken aback because you were too stupid to actually think about what you were reading and realize it was a lie. I'm sure "I read it on the internet so it must be true" is a great standard to live by though.

Oriented (1)

PingXao (153057) | more than 2 years ago | (#36794682)

It oriented its antenna, it didn't orientate it. Someone needs to documentate the English language a little bit better.

Re:Oriented (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36794730)

No more racial slurs from you, please sir.

Re:Oriented (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36795264)

Ok I LOLed. Well done.

I'm still confused why anybody could consider "Oriental" to be a bad word.

Re:Oriented (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36796738)

Because Orientals say "velly solly, but washing is not finish. come tomollow again prease." but Asians say "rungs sound vellly bad. I check you into hospital light away."

Re:Oriented (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36795796)

Someone needs to read more dictionaries.

Re:Oriented (0)

lennier (44736) | more than 2 years ago | (#36796374)

Thank you for your correction. We will proactively expedite an interofficely administrationed solutioneering approach with broad-based win-win upside expectations, on a level playing field, with a proven track record, at the end of the day, in the large, scaled comprehensively viz-a-viz our cross-paradigm global "e" synergy best-practice value-driven innovation vision. Ism. Thing. We're a little vague on the details, but it will probably involve eating our own dogfood while we push the bleeding edge of the envelope to smash silos while we focus on key deliverables of our core competencies and not sweat the small stuff while we throw the fish who moved our cheese.

It's the least we could do for you, our valued customer!

Fist orbit of an asteroid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36794972)

Third orbit of an asteroid after Eros and Itokawa.

Re:Fist orbit of an asteroid? (2)

sysrammer (446839) | more than 2 years ago | (#36795114)

First orbit of an asteroid *in the belt*.
Eros was the first discovered near-Earth asteroid.
Itokawa is an Apollo and Mars-crosser asteroid.

sr

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