Space Robotics

First Image of Vesta from Dawn Probe

Posted 11 May 2011 at 19:56 UTC by steve Share This

That white dot on a black background is the first image of the asteroid known Vesta captured by NASA's Dawn space probe. The space-faring robot is still 1.2 million kilometers away from Vesta, the second largest object in the asteroid belt, large enough to be considered a protoplanet. Dawn was launched in 2007 to study Vesta and the larger body, Ceres. Dawn is powered by three 30 cm ion thrusters expelling xenon ions at 10 times the speed achieved by chemical rocket engines. Each thruster provides 91 millinewtons, together, it's enough to take the robot from 0 to 60 MPH in four days. That may not sound like much but Dawn's will fire for 2,100 days. In addition to the robot's framing camera, which took the above photo, it carries a host of other sensors including gamma ray and neutron detectors, visible and IR spectrometers, and gravity field sensors. For more, check out the full size image with the detailed news release on NASA's website.

Marooned off Vesta, posted 11 May 2011 at 20:07 UTC by steve » (Master)

Anyone else reminded of Asimov's short story by this news? I think the characters in his story saved themselves by creating an improvised steam rocket to propel their stranded ship to safety.

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