The Dawn spacecraft has entered the first mapping orbit (13,600 kilometers altitude), so “Let’s get Dawn to business” says Marc Rayman.
Namely, “spectra in infrared and visible wavelengths, a search for an extremely tenuous veil of water vapor and precise tracking of the orbit to measure Ceres’ mass.”
As Rayman recounts, achieving orbit is the culmination of an awesome voyage, enabled by a seriously cool ion drive. It also is no flyby, the spacecraft will “linger” in orbit for a year or more, collecting tons of data.
A cool animation (with goovy ion engine) shows the final approach.
In another groundbreaking achievement, I’ll mention that the Planetary Data System has been going since before the World Wide Web (at least since the late 1980s). This archive provides free public access to data and reports from many space missions.
The PDS is headquartered at NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, but has been a federated library since the beginning. Participating nodes curate specialized data and services, and use standard formats and protocols to assure interoperability.
This sounds familiar, but PDS had to build it from the ground up. At the beginning, there wasn’t even the Web.
The PDS is one of the worlds great repositories of science data, and an example of open data access. Much of todays open data and big data technology is built on foundations pioneered by PDS.
Check it out. It’s the real deal.