Visit the USGS Home Page Go to the Astrogeology Research Program Home Page USGS Astrogeology Research Program

Dawn Mission Killed

Friday, March 3, 2006

Dawn mission
The mission would have studied the asteroids Ceres and Vesta, both relics from the early solar system

650x465

Artist's impression: W Hartmann/JPL/NASA
In early February, Dawn principal investigator Christopher Russell, at the University of California Los Angeles, said "We were going full bore toward launch, running as fast as we could. We saw the finish line in sight and then someone shot the gun and said we're cancelling the race for a bit."

Apparently the mission was stopped after a US congressional hearing on NASA's science budget, reports NASAWatch.com, a website run by former NASA employee Keith Cowing.

Both asteroids were thought to be remnants of the first objects formed in the solar system. But they show mysterious differences in their structures – Vesta has melted and separated into layers, while Ceres has not. Dawn was to probe these differences, using close-range scrutiny.

The decision to cancel the mission came after ,more than a month, the agency was expected to complete an extensive review of the mission's progress. In October 2005, NASA ordered Dawn managers to stop work on the mission, citing excessive technical problems and a budget overrun.

More: Dawn asteroid mission killed.
Story Credit: NewScientist.com news service; Kimm Groshong

Deep Impact Team Reports First Evidence of Cometary Ice

Friday, March 3, 2006

Comet Tempel 1, which created a flamboyant Fourth of July fireworks display in space last year, is covered with a small amount of water ice. These results, reported by members of NASA’s Deep Impact team in an advanced online edition of Science, offer the first definitive evidence of surface ice on any comet.

“We have known for a long time that water ice exists in comets, but this is the first evidence of water ice on comets,” said Jessica Sunshine, Deep Impact co-investigator and lead author of the Science article. Tempel I A chief scientist with Science Applications International Corporation who holds three Brown University degrees, Sunshine said the discovery offers important insight into the composition of comets – small, Sun-orbiting space travelers that are believed to be leftovers from the formation of the solar system.

“Understanding a comet’s water cycle and supply is critical to understanding these bodies as a system and as a possible source that delivered water to Earth,” she said. “Add the large organic component in comets and you have two of the key ingredients for life.”

More: NASA - Deep Impact Team Reports First Evidence of Cometary Ice