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NASA’s Dawn Mission- New Orbit, New Opportunities

NASA's Dawn probe moving to lowest-ever orbit around Ceres

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NASA, Microsoft
After lettuce, astronauts could grow beans in space in 2021. Pixabay

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is set to reach in early June its new, final orbit which will be less than 50 kilometres above the surface of the inner solar system’s only dwarf planet — 10 times closer than the spacecraft has ever been.

Soon after, it will begin collecting images and other science data, and that very low orbit will also garner some of Dawn’s closest images yet, NASA said on Thursday.

The spacecraft will collect gamma ray and neutron spectra, which help scientists understand variations in the chemical makeup of Ceres’ uppermost layer.

“The team is eagerly awaiting the detailed composition and high-resolution imaging from the new, up-close examination,” said Dawn’s Principal Investigator Carol Raymond of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

NASA
Representational Image, VOA

“These new high-resolution data allow us to test theories formulated from the previous data sets and discover new features of this fascinating dwarf planet,” Raymond added.

Dawn was launched in 2007 and has been exploring the two largest bodies in the main asteroid belt, Vesta and Ceres, to uncover new insights into our solar system. It entered Ceres’ orbit in March 2015.

The transfer from Dawn’s previous orbit to its final one is not as simple as making a lane change.

Also Read: NASA Probe to ‘Touch’ the Sun Will Carry 1.1 mn Names

Dawn’s operations team worked for months to plot the course for this second extended mission of the spacecraft, which is propelled by an ion engine.

Engineers mapped out more than 45,000 possible trajectories before devising a plan that will allow the best science observations, NASA said. (IANS)

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Spacecraft Test Runs into Serious Problems, Smoke All Over SpaceX in Florida

"Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting (issues) like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test"

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space craft
Federal oversight authorities warned NASA last year that more delays could leave US astronauts stranded if the new capsules were not ready to fly in 2019. Pixabay

Thick plumes of smoke rose over a SpaceX facility in Florida during a test fire of a Crew Dragon spacecraft and the issue was serious, it could derail plans to fly astronauts aboard the capsule later this year, the media reported.

SpaceX, which was founded by billionaire businessman Elon Musk in 2002, said the craft was undergoing a “series of engine tests” at a facility in Cape Canaveral on Saturday, and something went wrong during the final stretch, CNN reported.

SpaceX will work with NASA to determine what caused the issue. No injuries were reported.

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The US has not had the technology to fly humans to orbit since the space shuttle programme ended in 2011. Meanwhile, NASA has paid Russia about $80 million per seat to send astronauts to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz capsules. Pixabay

“Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting (issues) like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test,” SpaceX said in a statement.

Crew Dragon is already overdue and more delays could make things tricky for NASA.

It was scheduled to conduct a key test of its emergency abort system in June. And its first crewed mission, which will carry astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, was slated for July, though NASA recently said that timeline was under review.

space craft
Federal oversight authorities warned NASA last year that more delays could leave US astronauts stranded if the new capsules were not ready to fly in 2019. Pixabay

The US has not had the technology to fly humans to orbit since the space shuttle programme ended in 2011. Meanwhile, NASA has paid Russia about $80 million per seat to send astronauts to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz capsules.

NASA has also decided to ask the private sector to design and build a new generation of spacecrafts.

Also Read: Avoid Smoking During Pregnancy To Prevent Premature Births

SpaceX and Boeing, which is building a vehicle called Starliner, were awarded contracts worth up to $2.6 billion and $4.2 billion, respectively, in 2014. Both capsules were supposed to start flying in 2017, but they have been hampered with delays.

Federal oversight authorities warned NASA last year that more delays could leave US astronauts stranded if the new capsules were not ready to fly in 2019. (IANS)