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The Giant Asteroid: A Retrospective

1 Feb 2013, 01:05 UTC
The Giant Asteroid: A Retrospective
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

By Marc Rayman
As NASA’s Dawn spacecraft makes its journey to its second target, the dwarf planet Ceres, Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer, shares a monthly update on the mission’s progress.

As NASA’s Dawn spacecraft takes off for its next destination, this mosaic synthesizes some of the best views the spacecraft had of the giant asteroid Vesta. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA› full image and caption
Dear Dawnt Look Backs,
Its long and daring interplanetary journey continuing smoothly, Dawn is making good progress in gradually reshaping its orbit around the sun. Its uniquely efficient ion propulsion system is gently bringing it closer to its next destination, dwarf planet Ceres, and ever farther from its previous one, Vesta. Although the robotic explorer’s sights are set firmly ahead, let’s take one last look back at the fascinating alien world it unveiled during its 14 months in orbit there.
Vesta, the second most massive resident of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, was discovered in 1807. For more than two centuries thereafter, the mysterious object appeared as little more than a fuzzy patch of light among the stars. The only one of the millions of main belt asteroids to be bright enough to ...

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