[FPSPACE] Dawn Journal for January 27, 2009 - Mars flyby on February 17
ljk4 at msn.com
Thu Jan 29 23:56:38 EST 2009
January 27, 2009
Dear Dawncers, Dawn continues on course for its pas de deux with Mars on February 17. The planet’s gravity will gracefully assist the spacecraft on its way to rendezvous with its intended celestial partners Vesta and Ceres in the more distant asteroid belt. Even the extraordinary capability of its ion propulsion system would not be sufficient for Dawn to complete its celestial dance without the help of Mars. In the last log we saw that the mission operations team was preparing to adjust the probe’s flight path to keep it on target for next month’s flyby. Just getting to the vicinity of Mars is not sufficient, as the passage by the planet is only one short segment of a very long itinerary. Indeed, choreographing Dawn’s trajectory is a complex matter of finding the most efficient route through the solar system to travel from the moving platform on which it started (Earth) to encounter Mars in just the right way to reach Vesta at the proper time to complete its work there before it has to begin the trek to Ceres to meet it on schedule, aided during most of the journey by the ion propulsion system. Dawn must arrive at Mars on time, traveling in the correct direction and at the necessary location, for the gravitational slingshot to yield the desired effect. Flying the spacecraft through that “window” at Mars is like threading a celestial needle.
Full Journal entry here:
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