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Paper: Investigating Asteroids: A Mission Storyline—Past, Present, Future
Volume: 443, Earth and Space Science: Making Connections in Education and Public Outreach
Page: 69
Authors: Ristvey Jr., J. D.; Wise, J. A.
Abstract: The Dawn Mission will characterize the conditions and processes of the solar system’s earliest epoch by investigating Vesta and Ceres. Dawn will provide data on the role of body size and the presence of water in planetary evolution and form a bridge between the investigation of the rocky inner solar system and the icy outer solar system. In this workshop, participants actively engaged in the storyline of the mission by participating in three activities (see below) sampling our first three content modules. The activities are appropriate for high school and introductory undergraduate astronomy courses for non-science majors. The story of the mission is interwoven with the activities in a way that education and public outreach providers can use as a model for developing their own storyline. Past. The Titius-Bode law (modeled in the “Patterns in the Sky” activity) led to the discovery of a “missing planet” between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. In this activity, “In Search of…,” participants become members of the Celestial Police as they hunt for the missing planet. By using a “blink test,” participants in each group had the opportunity to “search for” the missing planet. Then they read “Dark and Starry Night,” which describes the real event. Present. The Dawn spacecraft uses ion propulsion to get the additional velocity needed to reach Vesta once it leaves the Delta rocket. It also uses ion propulsion to spiral to lower altitudes on Vesta, to leave Vesta and cruise to Ceres, and to spiral to a low altitude orbit at Ceres. Participants learn how to design and test their own ion propulsion engine by manipulating the variables of plate charge and plate distance. Future. The presence or absence of water in soil is a concept that students are familiar with; it is a phenomenon that also relates directly to the Dawn mission. If students have watched the television show CSI they know how crime scene team members collect samples, trace evidence, and examine and analyze spectrographs. In this final activity, participants compare and analyze some simple spectrographs, leading to more than one possible conclusion, which gives them a fairly realistic simulation of science at work.
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