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Title: Moon Search Algorithms for NASA's Dawn Mission to Asteroid Vesta
Authors: Nargess Memarsadeghi, Lucy A. McFadden, David Skillman, Brian McLean, Max Mutchler, Uri Carsenty, Eric E. Palmer, the Dawn Mission's Satellite Working Group

A moon or natural satellite is a celestial body that orbits a planetary body such as a planet, dwarf planet, or an asteroid. Scientists seek understanding the origin and evolution of our solar system by studying moons of these bodies. Additionally, searches for satellites of planetary bodies can be important to protect the safety of a spacecraft as it approaches or orbits a planetary body. If a satellite of a celestial body is found, the mass of that body can also be calculated once its orbit is determined. Ensuring the Dawn spacecraft's safety on its mission to the asteroid (4) Vesta primarily motivated the work of Dawn's Satellite Working Group (SWG) in summer of 2011. Dawn mission scientists and engineers utilised various computational tools and techniques for Vesta's satellite search. The objectives of this paper are to 1) introduce the natural satellite search problem, 2) present the computational challenges, approaches, and tools used when addressing this problem, and 3) describe applications of various image processing and computational algorithms for performing satellite searches to the electronic imaging and computer science community. Furthermore, we hope that this communication would enable Dawn mission scientists to improve their satellite search algorithms and tools and be better prepared for performing the same investigation in 2015, when the spacecraft is scheduled to approach and orbit the dwarf planet (1) Ceres.

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Anniversary of the launch of the Dawn spacecraft in 2007.



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Dawn has departed the giant asteroid Vesta

Mission controllers received confirmation today that NASA's Dawn spacecraft has escaped from the gentle gravitational grip of the giant asteroid Vesta. Dawn is now officially on its way to its second destination, the dwarf planet Ceres.
Dawn departed from Vesta at about 06:26 UT on Sept. 5. Communications from the spacecraft via NASA's Deep Space Network confirmed the departure and that the spacecraft is now travelling toward Ceres.

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NASA's Dawn Prepares for Trek Toward Dwarf Planet

NASA's Dawn spacecraft is on track to become the first probe to orbit and study two distant solar system destinations, to help scientists answer questions about the formation of our solar system. The spacecraft is scheduled to leave the giant asteroid Vesta on Sept. 5 to start its two-and-a-half-year journey to the dwarf planet Ceres.
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Dawn Engineers Assess Reaction Wheel

Engineers working on NASA's Dawn spacecraft are assessing the status of a reaction wheel -- part of a system that helps the spacecraft point precisely -- after onboard software powered it off on Aug. 8. Dawn's mission is to study the geology and geochemistry of the giant asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres, the two most massive objects in the main asteroid belt. Dawn is now using its thrusters to point at Earth for communications. The rest of the spacecraft is otherwise healthy.
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Dawn has completed the final intensive phase of its extraordinary exploration of Vesta, and it has now begun its gradual departure. Propelled by its uniquely efficient ion propulsion system, the probe is spiraling ever higher, reversing the winding path it followed into orbit last year.
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The Dawn spacecraft arrived at Vesta, 2011

Dawn Spacecraft Unveils Vesta Images



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Dawn Easing into its Final Science Orbit

After successfully completing nearly five months scrutinizing the giant asteroid Vesta at its lowest orbit altitude, NASA's Dawn spacecraft will begin its final major science data-gathering phase at Vesta on June 15, at an average altitude of 680 kilometres above the surface.
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Far from Earth, on the opposite side of the sun, deep in the asteroid belt, Dawn is gradually spiralling around the giant protoplanet Vesta. Under the gentle pressure of its uniquely efficient ion propulsion system, the explorer is scaling the gravitational mountain from its low-altitude mapping orbit (LAMO) to its second high-altitude mapping orbit (HAMO2).
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 Dawn Gets Extra Time to Explore Vesta

NASA's Dawn mission has received official confirmation that 40 extra days have been added to its exploration of the giant asteroid Vesta, the second most massive object in the main asteroid belt. The mission extension allows Dawn to continue its scientific observations at Vesta until Aug. 26, while still arriving at the dwarf planet Ceres at the same originally scheduled target date in February 2015.
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