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SCIENCE

Reports, Discussion, and Data Sharing Fill 3-Day Vesta Planning Workshop

By Joe Wise, Dawn E/PO Manager


Members of Dawn science team gather for Vesta workshop
Members of the Dawn project at the Vesta Planning Workshop in Dana Point, CA. Photo credit: J Wise, 2008

May 18, 2008 -- A Vesta Planning Workshop in Dana Point, CA., on May 12–14, drew members of three teams from diverse institutions in the United States, Italy, and Germany: the science team, spacecraft and operations engineering team, and the instrument team. “Being in the same room at the same time gives everyone a voice in the planning,” said Joe Wise, Dawn E/PO manager.

And getting everyone on the same page meant starting with an update on the spacecraft performance along with discussions of constraints and other issues to resolve. Each instrument has constraints on its efficient operation, and the communications and spacecraft operations have constraints in order to meet the mission objectives and keep the spacecraft safe.

A discussion of the Mars Gravity Assist (MGA) and plans for instrument calibration followed. Rounding out the day were reports on the current state of the Framing Camera (FC), Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (VIR), and the Gamma Radiation and Neutron Detector (GRAND). Before wrapping up, participants heard a report on the expected spectral characteristics of Vesta based on existing data from meteorites and other studies.

Teams collaborate on data collection and integration

Members of Dawn science team gather for Vesta workshop
Members of the Dawn project at the Vesta Planning Workshop in Dana Point, CA. Photo credit: J Wise, 2008

With updates completed, the next two days focused on the survey orbit plan, contingency plans, and a review of opportunistic data collection. The topic of orbits held everyone’s attention because of Vesta’s small size and the resulting lack of information about its gravitational field. Mindful to not place the spacecraft in an unstable orbit, the JPL flight management teams must acquire data about Vesta at a high orbit before attempting lower orbits. The teams grew excited by the challenge of covering the entire surface with science instruments to allow for integration of data.
 
Stay current with developments with the Dawn Mission Status Updates and Marc Rayman's Dawn Journal.