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What's up in the solar system in April 2011

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/31 03:59 CDT

April 2011 will see MESSENGER begin the science phase of its orbital mission at Mercury, and should, I think, also see the start of Dawn's approach observations of Vesta. At Mars, Opportunity is back on the road again, rolling inexorably toward Endeavour. At Saturn, Cassini will continue its focus on Saturn and Titan science.

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Dawn's instruments are being roused for Vesta approach

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/03/21 05:00 CDT

Today the Dawn imaging team released a photo from the main camera, the Framing Camera, symbolizing that they're preparing to start Dawn approach science; the other two science instruments, a spectrometer and a neutron detector, are also being turned on and checked out.

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Dawn Journal: HAMO2; the destination glows bright

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2011/03/09 01:06 CST

Deep in the asteroid belt, Dawn continues thrusting with its ion propulsion system. The spacecraft is making excellent progress in reshaping its orbit around the sun to match that of its destination, the unexplored world Vesta, with arrival now less than five months away.

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What's up in the solar system in March 2011

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2011/02/28 02:43 CST

I don't think there's any question what the big event of this month will be: MESSENGER is finally, finally entering orbit at Mercury on March 18 at 00:45 UTC (March 17 at 16:45 for me).

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Dawn Journal: ORT ORT ORT

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2011/02/03 12:10 CST

Dawn continues its flight through the asteroid belt, steadily heading toward its July rendezvous with Vesta, where it will take up residence for a year. On January 10, Dawn performed some of the activities that it will execute in its low altitude mapping orbit (LAMO) at Vesta.

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Dawn Journal: LAMO (Low Altitude Mapping Orbit)

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2011/01/05 03:35 CST

Dawn finishes 2010 much as it began the year, thrusting with its ion propulsion system in steady pursuit of a distant world.

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Dawn Journal: Attitude Adjustment

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2010/12/07 11:29 CST

Dawn is maintaining its smooth and steady course through the solar system as it gradually closes in on Vesta.

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Dawn Journal: Approaching Conjunction

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2010/11/03 03:12 CDT

Continuing its journey to collect treats in the main asteroid belt, Dawn is making excellent progress toward its July 2011 rendezvous with protoplanet Vesta.

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Dawn Journal: Third Anniversary in Space, and How to Map Vesta

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2010/09/28 11:48 CDT

On the third anniversary of traveling through the solar system on its own since dispatching Dawn on a separate journey, Earth continues to orbit the sun in much the same way it has been.

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Dawn Journal: Getting Warmer, Farther from the Sun?

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2010/09/02 02:34 CDT

Dawn is now so far from the sun that even with its tremendous solar arrays, it does not receive enough sunlight to generate sufficient electrical power to operate all systems and still achieve maximum thrust.

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Dawn Journal: A Year from Vesta

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2010/07/28 12:10 CDT

Dawn is flying smoothly through the asteroid belt, now less than a year from entering orbit around Vesta, the first of its two cosmic destinations.

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Dawn Journal: Dawn 9.0

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2010/06/30 08:24 CDT

A new version of the Dawn spacecraft is continuing the ambitious journey through the asteroid belt to uncharted distant worlds.

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Dawn Journal: Surveying Vesta

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2010/06/01 11:41 CDT

After more than 2.5 years of spaceflight, and more than 6 months in the asteroid belt, Dawn's interplanetary journey continues smoothly.

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Dawn Journal: Matching Paces with Vesta

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2010/05/02 11:01 CDT

Dawn remains on course and on schedule for its appointments with Vesta and Ceres, colossal protoplanets in the main asteroid belt.

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Dawn Journal: It's Just a Phase

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2010/03/30 12:43 CDT

Our interplanetary adventurer still has a great deal of ion thrusting to complete before it can begin its orbital exploration of Vesta next year.

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Dawn Journal: Forever Farther From Earth Than the Sun

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2010/02/26 09:14 CST

Pushing ever farther into space, deeper into the asteroid belt, Dawn is continuing to progress smoothly on its solar system journey.

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Dawn Journal: Thruster Two's Time to Shine

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2010/02/10 01:14 CST

Dawn is outfitted with three ion thrusters, assigned the heartwarming names thruster #1, thruster #2, and thruster #3.

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Dawn Journal: Patiently Accelerating

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2010/01/05 02:51 CST

Dawn usually interrupts ion thrusting once a week for about eight hours to point its main antenna to Earth. On November 30, however, instead of resuming thrusting, it dutifully followed different instructions that were stored onboard.

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What's up in the solar system in January 2010

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/01/04 01:29 CST

While we don't have Moon bases, we do have plenty of spacecraft. Before I get into my more detailed look at the activities of the 20-odd spacecraft wandering about the solar system, I thought I'd look ahead to 2010 more generally and see what the year has in store for us.

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Dawn Journal: In the Asteroid Belt, but Far from Asteroids

Posted by Marc Rayman on 2009/12/01 11:22 CST

Dawn entered the main asteroid belt on November 13. As it ventures ever deeper into this vast collection of material between Mars and Jupiter, it may be tempting to think of the spacecraft constantly dodging asteroids.

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