NASA News: NASA Dawn Spacecraft Returns Close-Up Image Of Asteroid Vesta

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Dawn spacecraft has returned the first
close-up image after beginning its orbit around the giant asteroid
Vesta. On Friday, July 15, Dawn became the first probe to enter orbit
around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

The image taken for navigation purposes shows Vesta in greater detail
than ever before. When Vesta captured Dawn into its orbit, there were
approximately 9,900 miles (16,000 kilometers) between the spacecraft
and asteroid. Engineers estimate the orbit capture took place at 10 p.m. PDT.

Vesta is 330 miles (530 kilometers) in diameter and the second most
massive object in the asteroid belt. Ground- and space-based
telescopes have obtained images of Vesta for about two centuries, but
they have not been able to see much detail on its surface.
"We are beginning the study of arguably the oldest extant primordial
surface in the solar system," said Dawn principal investigator
Christopher Russell from the University of California, Los Angeles.
"This region of space has been ignored for far too long. So far, the
images received to date reveal a complex surface that seems to have
preserved some of the earliest events in Vesta's history, as well as
logging the onslaught that Vesta has suffered in the intervening eons."

Vesta is thought to be the source of a large number of meteorites that
fall to Earth. Vesta and its new NASA neighbor are currently
approximately 117 million miles (188 million kilometers) away from
Earth. The Dawn team will begin gathering science data in August.
Observations will provide unprecedented data to help scientists
understand the earliest chapter of our solar system. The data also
will help pave the way for future human space missions.

After traveling nearly four years and 1.7 billion miles (2.8 billion
kilometers), Dawn also accomplished the largest propulsive
acceleration of any spacecraft, with a change in velocity of more
than 4.2 miles per second (6.7 kilometers per second), due to its ion
engines. The engines expel ions to create thrust and provide higher
spacecraft speeds than any other technology currently available.

"Dawn slipped gently into orbit with the same grace it has displayed
during its years of ion thrusting through interplanetary space," said
Marc Rayman, Dawn chief engineer and mission manager at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "It is fantastically
exciting that we will begin providing humankind its first detailed
views of one of the last unexplored worlds in the inner solar system."

Although orbit capture is complete, the approach phase will continue
for about three weeks. During approach the Dawn team will continue a
search for possible moons around the asteroid; obtain more images for
navigation; observe Vesta's physical properties; and obtain calibration data.

In addition, navigators will measure the strength of Vesta's
gravitational tug on the spacecraft to compute the asteroid's mass
with much greater accuracy than has been previously available. That
will allow them to refine the time of orbit insertion.

Dawn will spend one year orbiting Vesta, then travel to a second
destination, the dwarf planet Ceres, arriving in February 2015. The
mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by JPL for the agency's Science
Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the
directorate's Discovery Program, which is managed by NASA's Marshall
Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

UCLA is responsible for Dawn mission science. Orbital Sciences Corp.
of Dulles, Va., designed and built the spacecraft. The German
Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research,
the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical
Institute are part of the mission's team.

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


To follow the mission on Twitter, visit:



NASA Begins Commercial Partnership With United Launch Alliance

DENVER -- Through a new agreement, United Launch Alliance (ULA) will
provide technical information to NASA about using the Atlas V rocket
to launch astronauts into space. The announcement was made Monday at
the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"I am truly excited about the addition of ULA to NASA's Commercial
Crew Development Program team," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
said. "Having ULA on board may speed the development of a commercial
crew transportation system for the International Space Station,
allowing NASA to concentrate its resources on exploring beyond low Earth orbit."

NASA and ULA's unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA) requires ULA to
provide data on the Atlas V, a flight-proven expendable launch
vehicle used by NASA and the Department of Defense for critical space missions.

NASA will share its human spaceflight experience with ULA to advance
crew transportation system capabilities and the draft human
certification requirements. ULA will provide NASA feedback about
those requirements, including providing input on the technical
feasibility and cost effectiveness of NASA's proposed certification approach.

"This unfunded SAA will look at the Atlas V to understand its design
risks, its capabilities, how it can be used within the context of
flying our NASA crew and maturing ULA's designs for the Emergency
Detection System and launch vehicle processing and launch
architectures under a crewed configuration," said Ed Mango, NASA's
Commercial Crew Program manager.

The majority of the work will be completed by the end of this year. As
part of the agreement, NASA will:
-- participate in milestone and technical review briefings and provide
technical feedback on milestone completion
-- assist in identification of risks and possible mitigation strategies

ULA will:
-- continue to advance the Atlas V CTS concept, including design
maturation and analyses
-- conduct ULA program reviews as planned
-- perform a Design Equivalency Review
-- develop Hazard Analyses unique for human spaceflight
-- develop a Probabilistic Risk Assessment
-- document an Atlas V CTS certification baseline
-- conduct Systems Requirements Review

"We believe this effort will demonstrate to NASA that our systems are
fully compliant with NASA requirements for human spaceflight," said
George Sowers, ULA's vice president of business development. "ULA
looks forward to continued work with NASA to develop a U.S.
commercial crew space transportation capability providing safe,
reliable, and cost effective access to and return from low Earth
orbit and the International Space Station."

In 2010, NASA awarded $6.7 million to ULA to accompany its own $1.3
million investment to develop an Emergency Detection System prototype
test bed. The EDS will monitor critical launch vehicle and spacecraft
systems and issue status, warning and abort commands to crew during
their mission to low Earth orbit. EDS is the sole significant element
necessary for flight safety to meet the requirements to certify ULA's
launch vehicles for human spaceflight.

For information on the United Launch Alliance, visit:


For information about NASA's Commercial Crew Program, visit:



NASA Sends Birthday Wishes To Astronaut John Glenn

WASHINGTON -- NASA commemorates the 90th birthday of astronaut John
Glenn. The pioneering explorer was the first U.S. astronaut to orbit
the Earth and also was the oldest person to fly to space when he
launched on the space shuttle in 1998.

"John Glenn is a legend, and NASA sends him our best wishes on this
major personal milestone," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.
"John's legacy and contributions to the continued progress of human
spaceflight are immense. His example is one we continue to emulate as
we push toward farther destinations in the solar system."

After a distinguished flying career with the Marines in World War II
and Korea, Glenn joined NASA in 1959 as one of the country's first
astronauts in Project Mercury. On Feb. 20, 1962, Glenn piloted the
Mercury-Atlas 6 "Friendship 7" spacecraft on the first U.S. manned
orbital mission. He launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in
Florida to successfully complete three orbits of the Earth.

Glenn flew to space again on the the STS-95 mission in 1998 aboard the
space shuttle Discovery. As a mission specialist, Glenn supported
deployment of a variety of research payloads and participated in
investigations about spaceflight and the aging process.

To read a biography of John Glenn, visit:


For information about NASA's exploration programs, visit:



Media Invited To Cape Canaveral Job Fair On July 26

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the
U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and Brevard Workforce are
partnering to host a job fair with private sector companies and
federal employers from across the country on July 26.

News media representatives are invited to attend the Space Coast Job
Fair and Hands-on Training Event at 11 a.m. EDT at the Radisson
Resort at the Port, 8701 Astronaut Blvd., Cape Canaveral, Fla. NASA,
OPM and Brevard Workforce officials will be available for interviews.

More than 45 employers are expected to take part in the event.
Journalists are asked to contact Allard Beutel of NASA Public Affairs
at 321-867-2468 if planning to attend, but no accreditation is required.

NASA has been working with local, state and federal officials to
provide future planning support and placement for non-civil servant
contractors who work to support the Space Shuttle Program, which will
end next month. In addition to this event, NASA's Human Resources
Office has hosted workshops, seminars and other events to help
prepare employees for future opportunities. For more information
about Kennedy's work force support efforts, visit:


For more information about OPM, visit:


For information about Kennedy, visit:



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