Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Monday, November 07, 2005

  The Dawn mission stands down

There are a lot of budget cuts going on at JPL - the rewards of success are seeing your projects canceled to fund the manned programs. Sigh. Still I confess that I have been very lukewarm about the Dawn mission for a very long time.

1) It's using antiquated hardware originally designed as a backup for the Deep Space 1 mission. By the time of launch the basic hardware will be well over 10 years old.

2) It's a 9+ year mission to study two very large differentiated bodies in a realm (the asteroid belt) where SEP (solar electric propulsion) does not work well.

Distant differentiated bodies like Ceres don't interest me. All that means is that the useful materials are buried deep where they can't be easily got at by the primitive mining techniques we have as yet developed. Undifferentiated rocks are possibly of less interest to science, but are far easier to mine.

Far better to launch Dawn towards any of the 3000+ near earth asteroids and comets, where it could survey 1 NEO (more or less) per year in flight, thus giving us a much better overview of the characteristics of the most energetically available off-planet resources.



I won't cry if Dawn is canceled entirely... but I would jump for joy if someone in congress or NASA got a clue and vectored Dawn towards an M class ("M" meaning metal-bearing) asteroid like Amun or an Apohele like 2003 CP20 or any of a variety of other noteworthy asteroids

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