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Topic: NASA’s Dawn Mission

NASA looks to use Electric Propulsion for future Space Travel

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationCleveland, OH – Since the beginning of the space program, people have been captivated by big, powerful rockets—like NASA’s Saturn V rocket that sent Apollo to the lunar surface, or the Space Launch System that will produce millions of pounds of thrust as it sends Artemis astronauts back to the Moon.

But what if the most powerful propulsion system in NASA’s toolbox produces less than one pound of thrust while reaching speeds of up to 200,000 mph? What if it costs less, carries more, and uses less fuel?

A solar electric propulsion Hall Effect thruster being tested under vacuum conditions at NASA. (NASA)

A solar electric propulsion Hall Effect thruster being tested under vacuum conditions at NASA. (NASA)

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NASA’s Dawn mission study shows Dwarf Planet Ceres could have had an Ocean

 

Written by Elyssia Widjaja
NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory News Office

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Minerals containing water are widespread on Ceres, suggesting the dwarf planet may have had a global ocean in the past. What became of that ocean? Could Ceres still have liquid today? Two new studies from NASA’s Dawn mission shed light on these questions.

The Dawn team found that Ceres’ crust is a mixture of ice, salts and hydrated materials that were subjected to past and possibly recent geologic activity, and that this crust represents most of that ancient ocean.

This photo shows dwarf planet Ceres as seen by NASA's Dawn. The map overlaid at right gives scientists hints about Ceres' internal structure from gravity measurements. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This photo shows dwarf planet Ceres as seen by NASA’s Dawn. The map overlaid at right gives scientists hints about Ceres’ internal structure from gravity measurements. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA study suggests Dwarf Planet Ceres’ Atmosphere linked to Sun’s Behavior

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists have long thought that Ceres may have a very weak, transient atmosphere, but mysteries lingered about its origin and why it’s not always present. Now, researchers suggest that this temporary atmosphere appears to be related to the behavior of the sun, rather than Ceres’ proximity to the sun.

The study was conducted by scientists from NASA’s Dawn mission and others who previously identified water vapor at Ceres using other observatories.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft determined the hydrogen content of the upper yard, or meter, of Ceres' surface. Blue indicates where hydrogen content is higher, near the poles, while red indicates lower content at lower latitudes. Vesta on the left, Ceres on the right. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft determined the hydrogen content of the upper yard, or meter, of Ceres’ surface. Blue indicates where hydrogen content is higher, near the poles, while red indicates lower content at lower latitudes. Vesta on the left, Ceres on the right. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

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NASA’s Dawn mission reveals Ceres’ Ice in Shadowed Craters related to dwarf planet’s tilt

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Dwarf planet Ceres may be hundreds of millions of miles from Jupiter, and even farther from Saturn, but the tremendous influence of gravity from these gas giants has an appreciable effect on Ceres’ orientation.

In a new study, researchers from NASA’s Dawn mission calculate that the axial tilt of Ceres — the angle at which it spins as it journeys around the sun — varies widely over the course of about 24,500 years. Astronomers consider this to be a surprisingly short period of time for such dramatic deviations.

This animation shows how the illumination of Ceres' northern hemisphere varies with the dwarf planet's axial tilt, or obliquity. Shadowed regions are highlighted for tilts of 2 degrees, 12 degrees and 20 degrees. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This animation shows how the illumination of Ceres’ northern hemisphere varies with the dwarf planet’s axial tilt, or obliquity. Shadowed regions are highlighted for tilts of 2 degrees, 12 degrees and 20 degrees. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Dawn Mission finds Evidence for Organic Material on Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn mission has found evidence for organic material on Ceres, a dwarf planet and the largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Scientists using the spacecraft’s visible and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIR) detected the material in and around a northern-hemisphere crater called Ernutet. Organic molecules are interesting to scientists because they are necessary, though not sufficient, components of life on Earth.

This enhanced color composite image, made with data from the framing camera aboard NASA's Dawn spacecraft, shows the area around Ernutet Crater. The bright red portions appear redder with respect to the rest of Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This enhanced color composite image, made with data from the framing camera aboard NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, shows the area around Ernutet Crater. The bright red portions appear redder with respect to the rest of Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Dawn Mission identifies Craters on Ceres where Ice could be trapped

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Scientists with NASA’s Dawn mission have identified permanently shadowed regions on the dwarf planet Ceres. Most of these areas likely have been cold enough to trap water ice for a billion years, suggesting that ice deposits could exist there now.

“The conditions on Ceres are right for accumulating deposits of water ice,” said Norbert Schorghofer, a Dawn guest investigator at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “Ceres has just enough mass to hold on to water molecules, and the permanently shadowed regions we identified are extremely cold — colder than most that exist on the moon or Mercury.”

At the poles of Ceres, scientists have found craters that are permanently in shadow (indicated by blue markings). Such craters are called "cold traps" if they remain below about minus 240 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 151 degrees Celsius). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

At the poles of Ceres, scientists have found craters that are permanently in shadow (indicated by blue markings). Such craters are called “cold traps” if they remain below about minus 240 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 151 degrees Celsius). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA says Bright Spots on Dwarf Planet Ceres may come from Hydrothermal Activity

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The brightest area on Ceres, located in the mysterious Occator Crater, has the highest concentration of carbonate minerals ever seen outside Earth, according to a new study from scientists on NASA’s Dawn mission. The study, published online in the journal Nature, is one of two new papers about the makeup of Ceres.

“This is the first time we see this kind of material elsewhere in the solar system in such a large amount,” said Maria Cristina De Sanctis, lead author and principal investigator of Dawn’s visible and infrared mapping spectrometer. De Sanctis is based at the National Institute of Astrophysics, Rome.

The center of Ceres' mysterious Occator Crater is the brightest area on the dwarf planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/ASI/INAF)

The center of Ceres’ mysterious Occator Crater is the brightest area on the dwarf planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/ASI/INAF)

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NASA’s Dawn mission releases video that gives flyover perspective of dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Striking 3-D detail highlights a towering mountain, the brightest spots and other features on dwarf planet Ceres in a new video from NASA’s Dawn mission.

A prominent mountain with bright streaks on its steep slopes is especially fascinating to scientists. The peak’s shape has been likened to a cone or a pyramid. It appears to be about 4 miles (6 kilometers) high, with respect to the surface around it, according to the latest estimates. This means the mountain has about the same elevation as Mount McKinley in Denali National Park, Alaska, the highest point in North America.

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NASA’s Dawn Mission creates Geological Maps of Asteroid Vesta

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Images from NASA’s Dawn Mission have been used to create a series of high-resolution geological maps of the large asteroid Vesta, revealing the variety of surface features in unprecedented detail. These maps are included with a series of 11 scientific papers published this week in a special issue of the journal Icarus.

Geological mapping is a technique used to derive the geologic history of a planetary object from detailed analysis of surface morphology, topography, color and brightness information.

This high-resolution geological map of Vesta is derived from Dawn spacecraft data. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

This high-resolution geological map of Vesta is derived from Dawn spacecraft data. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover captures first ever photo of Asteroids from the surface of Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new image from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is the first ever from the surface of Mars to show an asteroid, and it shows two: Ceres and Vesta.

These two — the largest and third-largest bodies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter — are the destinations of NASA’s Dawn mission. Dawn orbited Vesta in 2011 and 2012, and is on its way to begin orbiting Ceres next year. Ceres is a dwarf planet, as well as an asteroid.

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has caught the first image of asteroids taken from the surface of Mars. The image includes two asteroids, Ceres and Vesta. This version includes Mars' moon Deimos in a circular, exposure-adjusted inset and square insets at left from other observations the same night.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has caught the first image of asteroids taken from the surface of Mars. The image includes two asteroids, Ceres and Vesta. This version includes Mars’ moon Deimos in a circular, exposure-adjusted inset and square insets at left from other observations the same night.

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