NASA News: NASA Dawn Spacecraft Captures First Image Of Nearing Asteroid

WASHINGTON -- NASA's Dawn spacecraft has obtained its first image of
the giant asteroid Vesta, which will help fine-tune navigation during
its approach. Dawn expects to achieve orbit around Vesta on July 16,
when the asteroid is about 117 million miles from Earth.

The image from Dawn's framing cameras was taken on May 3 when the
spacecraft began its approach and was approximately 752,000 miles
(1.21 million km) from Vesta. The asteroid appears as a small, bright
pearl against a background of stars. Vesta also is known as a
protoplanet, because it is a large body that almost formed into a planet.

"After plying the seas of space for more than a billion miles, the
Dawn team finally spotted its target," said Carol Raymond, Dawn's
deputy principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "This first image hints of detailed
portraits to come from Dawn's upcoming visit."

Vesta is 330 miles (530 km) in diameter and the second most massive
object in the asteroid belt. Ground- and space-based telescopes
obtained images of the bright orb for about two centuries, but with
little surface detail.

Mission managers expect Vesta's gravity to capture Dawn in orbit on
July 16. To enter orbit, Dawn must match the asteroid's path around
the sun, which requires very precise knowledge of the body's location
and speed. By analyzing where Vesta appears relative to stars in
framing camera images, navigators will pin down its location and
enable engineers to refine the spacecraft's trajectory.

Dawn will start collecting science data in early August at an altitude
of approximately 1,700 miles (2,700 km) above the asteroid's surface.
As the spacecraft gets closer, it will snap multi-angle images
allowing scientists to produce topographic maps. Dawn will later
orbit at approximately 120 miles (200 km) to perform other
measurements and obtain closer shots of parts of the surface. Dawn
will remain in orbit around Vesta for one year. After another long
cruise phase, Dawn will arrive in 2015 at its second destination,
Ceres, an even more massive body in the asteroid belt.

Gathering information about these two icons of the asteroid belt will
help scientists unlock the secrets of our solar system's early
history. The mission will compare and contrast the two giant
asteroids shaped by different forces. Dawn's science instruments will
measure surface composition, topography and texture. Dawn also will
measure the tug of gravity from Vesta and Ceres to learn more about
their internal structures. The spacecraft's full odyssey will take it
on a 3-billion-mile (5-billion-km) journey, which began with its
launch in September 2007.

Dawn's mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by JPL for NASA's Science
Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the
directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space
Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The University of California in Los Angeles is responsible for overall
Dawn mission science. Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., designed
and built the spacecraft. The framing cameras were developed and
built under the leadership of the Max Planck Institute for Solar
System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau in Germany, with significant
contributions by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of
Planetary Research in Berlin and in coordination with the Institute
of Computer and Communication Network Engineering in Braunschweig.
The framing camera project is funded by NASA, the Max Planck Society and DLR.

To view the image and obtain more information about Dawn, visit:


NASA Selects Classroom Teachers For SOFIA Science Flights

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- NASA has selected six teachers to work with
scientists aboard the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared
Astronomy (SOFIA) during research flights in May and June. This is
the first team of educators selected to participate in SOFIA's
Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program.

SOFIA is a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft fitted with a 100
inch (2.5 meter) diameter telescope. It analyzes infrared light to
study the formation of stars and planets; chemistry of interstellar
gases; composition of comets, asteroids and planets; and supermassive
black holes at the center of galaxies. Infrared observations are
optimal for studying low-temperature objects in space such as the raw
materials for star and planet formation and for seeing through
interstellar dust clouds that block light at visible wavelengths.

"Enabling educators to join SOFIA's scientific research and take that
experience back to their schools and communities is a unique
opportunity for NASA to enhance science and math education across the
country," said John Gagosian, SOFIA program executive at agency
headquarters in Washington. "More than 70 teachers flew on NASA's
previous flying observatory, the Kuiper Airborne Observatory, from
1991 through 1995, and that program had long-lasting, positive
effects on both the teachers and their students."

The six teachers selected for the SOFIA program submitted applications
that included plans for taking their training and flight experience
back to their classrooms.
The teachers selected are:
-- Marita Beard, Branham High School, San Jose, Calif.
-- Mary Blessing, Herndon High School, Herndon, Va.
-- Cris DeWolf, Chippewa Hills High School, Remus, Mich.
-- Kathleen Joanne Fredette, Desert Willow Intermediate School,
Palmdale, Calif.
-- Theresa Paulsen, Mellen School District, Mellen, Wis.
-- Margaret Piper, Lincoln Way High School, Frankfort, Ill.

"We know teachers who participate in science research programs return
inspired, and their students' engagement with technical subjects are
measurably increased for many years afterward," said Dana Backman,
manager of SOFIA's education and outreach programs. "Airborne
Astronomy Ambassadors is an outstanding opportunity for NASA to reach
out to both new and veteran teachers of science, technology,
engineering and math to bring the excitement of real science research
into the classroom and the community at large."

NASA's international partners in developing and operating SOFIA, the
German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI),
will fly educators as well. The DLR and DSI plan to announce their
first two ambassadors later this month.

SOFIA is a joint program between NASA and DLR in Bonn, Germany. The
SOFIA program is managed at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center,
Edwards, Calif. The aircraft is based at the Dryden Aircraft
Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. NASA's Ames Research Center
in Moffett Field, Calif., manages the SOFIA science and mission
operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research
Association in Columbia, Md., and DSI in Stuttgart, Germany.

NASA will host an online video chat about SOFIA with Project Scientist
Pamela Marcum for approximately one hour at 1 p.m. EDT on Thursday,
May 12. Participants will join a conversation about SOFIA's first
science flights, targets of opportunity, and plans for future
flights. Based at Ames Research Center, Marcum is an expert on galaxy
evolution and worked on the first extensive ultraviolet imaging of
nearby galaxies. For more information on the chat and to participate, visit:


For more information about SOFIA, visit:


For information about SOFIA's science missions, visit:




NASA Announces 2011 Aeronautics Scholarship Recipients

WASHINGTON -- NASA has selected 25 graduate and undergraduate students
from across the country to receive aeronautics scholarships for the
next school year.

NASA selected the students from hundreds of applicants. The
Aeronautics Scholarships Program, which is in its fourth year, aids
students enrolled in fields related to aeronautics and aviation studies.

"We are proud to welcome these scholars to the NASA family as members
of a nationwide team of researchers who are pursuing an ambitious set
of aeronautics technology development goals," said Jaiwon Shin,
associate administrator for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission
Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "We are
excited about this opportunity to act as mentors, and we fully expect
the students will teach us a few things too. We especially look
forward to the fresh ideas they will contribute to our pursuit of
solutions for some of the most pressing challenges facing the air
transportation system today."

Selected students will have the opportunity to intern with NASA
researchers and directly work on projects such as managing air
traffic more efficiently; reducing noise, fuel consumption and
emissions; and improving safety.

Twenty undergraduate scholarship winners will receive $15,000 per year
to cover tuition costs for two years and a $10,000 stipend during a
summer internship with NASA. Five graduate scholarship winners will
receive approximately $35,000 per year for up to three years and
$10,000 stipends for two summer internships. To maintain the
scholarship awards, all recipients must continue to meet the academic
standards of the universities they attend.

This year's recipients are enrolled at universities in Colorado,
Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New
York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Texas. To see the 2011
scholarship recipients' names and their schools on an interactive
U.S. map, visit:


The program annually awards 20 two-year undergraduate scholarships
plus summer internships, and five two- or three-year graduate
scholarships plus summer internships.

In September, students can apply online for 2012 aeronautics
scholarships. Applicants must be citizens of the United States or its
territories. The application requirements include information about
the students' proposed areas of study.

For more information about aeronautics research at NASA, visit:


For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:



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