Fri. Mar 24th, 2023
The Occator crater on Ceres holds some shiny secrets.

The Occator crater on Ceres holds some shiny secrets.


NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is a success from both a scientific and technical point of view. In the nearly nine years since launch, the probe has orbited both Vesta and Ceres, two of the largest objects in the asteroid belt. For scientists, Dawn’s most remarkable discovery is that he found spectacular craters on Ceres, the Texas-sized dwarf planet dotted with brilliant white dots.

Dawn has also demonstrated the viability of ion propulsion as a means of interplanetary travel. The spacecraft’s thrusters ionize the xenon propellant, providing significant savings in terms of propellant-to-thrust ratio. Ion engines get good gas mileage compared to traditional chemical rockets, although they travel slower at this scale. NASA may eventually use larger ion thrusters to ship large amounts of cargo to Mars ahead of human landings.

Thanks to this efficiency, even after getting into orbit around both Vesta and Ceres, Dawn still has a little bit of xenon gas left. Originally, mission managers planned to park it in a stable orbit around Ceres later this summer, creating a permanent artificial satellite. They couldn’t crash the spacecraft into Ceres, as is common with many similar missions, because Dawn has not been sterilized in accordance with planetary protection procedures. But the extra xenon has created an extra possibility.

Scientists involved with the spacecraft say they can visit a third object in the asteroid belt. “Instead, we want to go the other way, away from Ceres, to visit yet another target,” said lead researcher Chris Russell. New scientist. Russell wouldn’t name the destination without NASA’s approval of the plan, but we’d find out more in a few months.

By akfire1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.