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RE: Dawn spacecraft
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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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Vesta is spending the 205th anniversary of its discovery by treating Dawn to more spectacular vistas. When Heinrich Wilhelm Matthäus Olbers first spotted Vesta, he could hardly have imagined that the power of the noble human spirit for adventure and the insatiable hunger for knowledge would propel a ship from Earth to that mysterious point of light among the stars. And yet today our spacecraft is conducting a detailed and richly rewarding exploration of the world that Olbers found.
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Dawn is scrutinising Vesta from its low-altitude mapping orbit (LAMO), circling the rocky world five and a half times a day. The spacecraft is healthy and continuing its intensive campaign to reveal the astonishing nature of this body in the mysterious depths of the main asteroid belt.
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Dawn concludes 2011 more than 40 thousand times nearer to Vesta than it began the year. Now at its lowest altitude of the mission, the bold adventurer is conducting its most detailed exploration of this alien world and continuing to make thrilling new discoveries.
Circling the protoplanet 210 kilometres beneath it every 4 hours, 21 minutes on average, Dawn is closer to the surface than the vast majority of Earth-orbiting satellites are to that planet.

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NASA's Dawn Spirals Down to Lowest Orbit

NASA's Dawn spacecraft successfully manoeuvred into its closest orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta today, beginning a new phase of science observations. The spacecraft is now circling Vesta at an altitude averaging about 210 kilometers in the phase of the mission known as low altitude mapping orbit.
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Continuing its ambitious campaign of exploration deep in the asteroid belt, Dawn has spent most of the past month spiralling ever closer to Vesta. Fresh from the phenomenal success of mapping the alien world in detail in October, the spacecraft and its human team members are engaged in one of the most complicated parts of the mission. The reward will be the capability to scrutinise this fascinating protoplanet further.
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Dawn has completed another wonderfully successful phase of its exploration of Vesta, studying it in unprecedented detail during the past month. From the time of its discovery more than two centuries ago until just a few months ago, this protoplanet appeared as hardly more than a fuzzy blob, an indistinct fleck in the sky. Now Dawn has mapped it with exquisite clarity, revealing a fascinatingly complex alien world.
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NASA's Dawn Science Team Presents Early Science Results

Scientists with NASA's Dawn mission are sharing with other scientists and the public their early information about the southern hemisphere of the giant asteroid Vesta. The findings were presented today at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Minneapolis, Minn.
Dawn, which has been orbiting Vesta since mid-July, has found that the asteroid's southern hemisphere boasts one of the largest mountains in the solar system. Other findings show that Vesta's surface, viewed by Dawn at different wavelengths, has striking diversity in its composition, particularly around craters. Science findings also include an in-depth analysis of a set of equatorial troughs on Vesta and a closer look at the object's intriguing craters. The surface appears to be much rougher than most asteroids in the main asteroid belt. In addition, preliminary dates from a method that uses the number of craters indicate that areas in the southern hemisphere are as young as 1 billion to 2 billion years old, much younger than areas in the north.

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Press Briefing Webcast: NASA's Dawn Mission at Vesta

Scientists from NASA's Dawn Mission will present latest findings from their exploration of the solar system's second most massive object in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars, the asteroid Vesta, at a press briefing to be held from noon to 1:00 p.m. (CDT) on Wednesday, 12 October 2011.  The team is presenting their work at the 2011 Annual Meeting and Exhibition of the Geological Society of America (GSA) in Minneapolis, MN, 9-12 October 2011.
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