Cosmic Detective Work: Why We Care About Space Rocks

This artist’s concept depicts the spacecraft of NASA’s Psyche mission near the mission’s target, the metal asteroid Psyche. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

By Elizabeth Landau
NASA

The entire history of human existence is a tiny blip in our solar system’s 4.5-billion-year history. No one was around to see planets forming and undergoing dramatic changes before settling in their present configuration. In order to understand what came before us — before life on Earth and before Earth itself — scientists need to hunt for clues to that mysterious distant past.

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Sun Sets on NASA’s Dawn Mission

Credit: JPL

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has gone silent, ending a historic mission that studied time capsules from the solar system’s earliest chapter.

Dawn missed scheduled communications sessions with NASA’s Deep Space Network on Wednesday, Oct. 31, and Thursday, Nov. 1. After the flight team eliminated other possible causes for the missed communications, mission managers concluded that the spacecraft finally ran out of hydrazine, the fuel that enables the spacecraft to control its pointing. Dawn can no longer keep its antennas trained on Earth to communicate with mission control or turn its solar panels to the Sun to recharge.

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Two Record-Breaking NASA Deep Space Missions Coming to a Close

Artist’s concept of Dawn above Ceres around the time it was captured into orbit by the dwarf planet in early March. Since its arrival, the spacecraft turned around to point the blue glow of its ion engine in the opposite direction. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Two vastly different NASA spacecraft are about to run out of fuel: The Kepler spacecraft, which spent nine years in deep space collecting data that detected thousands of planets orbiting stars outside our solar system, and the Dawn spacecraft, which spent 11 years orbiting and studying the main asteroid belt’s two largest objects, Vesta and Ceres.

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The Legacy of NASA’s Dawn, Near End of Mission

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Dawn mission is drawing to a close after 11 years of breaking new ground in planetary science, gathering breathtaking imagery, and performing unprecedented feats of spacecraft engineering.

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Dusk for Dawn: Mission of Many Firsts to Gather More Data in Home Stretch

This mosaic of Cerealia Facula in Occator Crater is based on images obtained by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft in its second extended mission, from an altitude as low as about 21 miles (34 kilometers). (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

 

 

Pasadena Conference to Include New Insight into Dwarf Planet Ceres

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — As NASA’s Dawn spacecraft prepares to wrap up its groundbreaking 11-year mission, which has included two successful extended missions at Ceres, it will continue to explore — collecting images and other data.

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Dawn’s Latest Orbit Reveals Dramatic New Views of Occator Crater

This mosaic of a prominent mound located on the western side of Cerealia Facula was obtained by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on June 22, 2018 from an altitude of about 21 miles (34 kilometers). (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Dawn spacecraft reached its lowest-ever and final orbit around dwarf planet Ceres on June 6 and has been returning thousands of stunning images and other data.

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Dawn Mission Extended at Ceres

Artist’s concept of Dawn above Ceres around the time it was captured into orbit by the dwarf planet in early March. Since its arrival, the spacecraft turned around to point the blue glow of its ion engine in the opposite direction. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has authorized a second extension of the Dawn mission at Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. During this extension, the spacecraft will descend to lower altitudes than ever before at the dwarf planet, which it has been orbiting since March 2015. The spacecraft will continue at Ceres for the remainder of its science investigation and will remain in a stable orbit indefinitely after its hydrazine fuel runs out.

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SwRI Scientists Dig into the Origin of Organics on Ceres

SwRI scientists are studying the geology associated with the organic-rich areas on Ceres. Dawn spacecraft data show a region around the Ernutet crater where organic concentrations have been discovered (background image). The color coding shows the surface concentration of organics, as inferred from the visible and near infrared spectrometer. The inset shows a higher resolution enhanced color image of the Ernutet crater acquired by Dawn’s framing camera. Regions in red indicate higher concentration of organics. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/ASI/INAF/MPS/DLR/IDA)

SAN ANTONIO, October 18, 2017 (SwRI PR) – Since NASA’s Dawn spacecraft detected localized organic-rich material on Ceres, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has been digging into the data to explore different scenarios for its origin. After considering the viability of comet or asteroid delivery, the preponderance of evidence suggests the organics are most likely native to Ceres.

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Dawn Mission Celebrates 10 Years in Space

Dawn launched 10 years ago on Sept. 27, 2007. (Credits: NASA/Sandra Joseph and Rafael Hernandez)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Ten years ago, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft set sail for the two most massive bodies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter: giant asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres. The mission was designed to deliver new knowledge about these small but intricate worlds, which hold clues to the formation of planets in our solar system.

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NASA Dawn Spacecraft Finds Plentiful Ice on Ceres

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/where-is-the-ice-on-ceres-new-nasa-dawn-findings

PASEDENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — At first glance, Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt, may not look icy. Images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft have revealed a dark, heavily cratered world whose brightest area is made of highly reflective salts — not ice. But newly published studies from Dawn scientists show two distinct lines of evidence for ice at or near the surface of the dwarf planet. Researchers are presenting these findings at the 2016 American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

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Smallsat 2016: Updates on Planetary Resources, HawkEye 360

Ceres constellation (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Ceres constellation (Credit: Planetary Resources)

Planetary Resources and Hawkeye 360 gave updates on the remote sensing satellites they are planning to launch. The summaries below are courtesy of the following Tweeters:

  • Jeff Foust ‏@jeff_foust
  • David Hurst ‏@OrbitalDave
  • brianweeden ‏@brianweeden
  • Eric Anderson ‏@AndOneTech

Planetary Resources
Hannah Goldberg

  • Currently testing midwave infrared (IR) instrument using a Cessna aircraft
  • Two Arkyd-6 CubeSats will test IR instruments in space
  • First Arkyd-6 satellite to launch in Fall 2016, second in early 2017
  • Constellation of 10 larger Ceres spacecraft designed for Earth remote sensing
  • Hope to have Ceres constellation by 2018

HawkEye 360
Daniel CaJacob

  • Pathfinder constellation with 3 microsats flying in formation designed to triangulate radio frequency (RF) emissions from the ground
  • Launch of first 3 microsats planned for fourth quarter 2017
  • Deep Space Industries is prime contractor for satellites
  • University of Toronto Space Flight Laboratory is supplying the satellite bus
  • Satellites are pathfinders for a full commercial constellation of RF mapping and analytics system
  • Technology uses: ionospheric study, spectrum mapping, asset and natural resources monitoring, emergency response

Entrepreneurial Lingo Lesson: The Pivot

twist_chubby1_disrupt copy
First in an irregular series on entrepreneurial buzz words

Come on let’s pivot again,
Like we did last quarter!
Yeaaah, let’s pivot again,
Like we did last year!

Do you remember when,
ROI was really hummin’,
Yeaaaah, let’s pivot again,
Pivotin’ time is here!

Heeee, and round and round til IPO we go!
Oh, baby, make those investors love us so!

Let’s pivot again,
Like we did last quarter!
Yeaaah, let’s pivot again,
Like we did last year!

There comes a time in the existence of many startups when there an urgent need to change direction. You set up the company to pursue a goal, but for one reason or several — a lack of a market, shortage of investment, regulatory hurdles, a flawed concept — you have to direct all that talent, technology and enthusiasm toward a new objective that will keep the company in operation.

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New Horizons Given Mission Extension, Dawn to Stay at Ceres

Artist's impression of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker)
Artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Following its historic first-ever flyby of Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons mission has received the green light to fly onward to an object deeper in the Kuiper Belt, known as 2014 MU69. The spacecraft’s planned rendezvous with the ancient object – considered one of the early building blocks of the solar system — is Jan. 1, 2019.

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Orbital ATK Celebrates Success of Dawn Mission

Artist's concept of Dawn above Ceres around the time it was captured into orbit by the dwarf planet in early March. Since its arrival, the spacecraft turned around to point the blue glow of its ion engine in the opposite direction. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Artist’s concept of Dawn above Ceres around the time it was captured into orbit by the dwarf planet in early March. Since its arrival, the spacecraft turned around to point the blue glow of its ion engine in the opposite direction. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

DULLES, Va., 30 June 2016 (Orbital ATK PR) – Orbital ATK, Inc. (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today celebrates the achievements of NASA’s Dawn deep space exploration spacecraft as it successfully completes its primary mission. Designed and built by Orbital ATK, Dawn is in the ninth year of its historic journey, which is advancing human understanding of planetary formation and revealing new mysteries of the solar system.

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Dawn Completes Primary Mission on Asteroid Day

This false-color rendering highlights differences in surface materials at Ceres, one of the targets of the Dawn mission. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA)
This false-color rendering highlights differences in surface materials at Ceres, one of the targets of the Dawn mission. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — On June 30, just in time for the global celebration known as Asteroid Day, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft completes its primary mission. The mission exceeded all expectations originally set for its exploration of protoplanet Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres.

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