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Dawn spacecraft set to leave Asteroid Vesta (video)

dawn-spacecraft-set-leave-asteroid-vesta

Dawn spacecraft is on track to become the first probe to orbit and study two distant solar system destinations. The spacecraft is scheduled to leave the giant asteroid Vesta on Sept. 4 to start its two-and-a-half-year journey to the dwarf planet Ceres. Dawn began its 3-billion-mile (5-billion kilometer) odyssey to explore the two most massive objects in the main asteroid belt in 2007.

 

In the video above, Dawn’s orbit provided close-up views of Vesta, revealing unprecedented detail about the giant asteroid. ThDawn arrived at Vesta in July 2011 and will reach Ceres in early 2015. Dawn’s targets represent two icons of the asteroid belt that have been witness to much of our solar system’s history.

Dawn spacecraft will spiral away from Vesta using a special, hyper-efficient system called ion propulsion. Dawn’s ion propulsion system uses electricity to ionize xenon to generate thrust. The 12-inch-wide ion thrusters provide less power than conventional engines, but can maintain thrust for months at a time.

Source: JPL

For more information about Dawn, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/dawn and http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov .

Featured image: NASA’s Dawn spacecraft arrived at the giant asteroid Vesta on July 15,2011  and is set to depart on Sept. 4, 2012 (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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