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September 24, 2012 - Now That's an Asteroid

Now That’s an Asteroid Launched five years ago this week, the Dawn spacecraft became the first spacecraft ever to orbit a main belt asteroid. With a novel ion propulsion system, Dawn charted a course through the inner solar system that had it swing by Mars for a gravity boost, with its arrival at Vesta occurring on July 16, 2011. In this composite image, Vesta (center), as seen by Dawn upon arrival, is shown to scale with the other asteroids that have so far been visited by spacecraft. Clockwise from top: Lutetia, Mathilde, Ida/Dactyl, Eros, Gaspra, Šteins, Annefrank, and (barely visible) Itokawa. After about a year orbiting Vesta, one of the three largest asteroids in the solar system, Dawn is scheduled to make more headlines by packing up and heading for the asteroid Ceres, which is twice the size of Vesta.

Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / JAXA / ESA

Weekly Calendar

September 24-30, 2012

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 24

Pallas at opposition

1930: John Young born
1962: MOOSE astronaut rescue system proposed
1970: Luna 16 returns lunar soil samples
1999: IKONOS-1 launched

Moon phase Tuesday 25

Yom Kippur begins at sunset

1973: 59-day Skylab 3 mission ends
1992: Mars Observer launched
1997: STS-86 Atlantis launched
2008: Shenzhou 7 launched

Moon phase Wednesday 26

Moon phase Thursday 27

Neptune 6° south of Moon

1814: Daniel Kirkwood born
2007: Dawn spacecraft launched

Moon phase Friday 28

Moon phase Saturday 29

Uranus at opposition
Full Moon 11:19 PM ET

1977: Salyut 6 space station launched
1988: STS-26 Discovery launched, first shuttle flight since Challenger disaster
2001: First satellite launch from Alaska
2009: MESSENGER makes its third and final flyby of Mercury

Moon phase Sunday 30

Uranus 5° south of Moon
Mercury 1.8° north of Spica

1880: Henry Draper takes first photograph of Orion Nebula
1994: STS-68 Endeavour launched
1995: Daily communication with Pioneer 11 ends
2005Soyuz TMA-7 launched carrying ISS Expedition 12 crew
2009Soyuz TMA-16 launched carrying ISS Expedition 21/22 crew

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.