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NASA’s Dawn probe closes in on giant asteroid

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WASHINGTON (AFP) – The Dawn space probe is closing in on its first target, the massive asteroid Vesta, almost four years after its journey began in September 2007, NASA said Tuesday.

Dawn is on a long-haul mission to unlock the secrets of the solar system by studying the two largest asteroids orbiting the sun, Vesta and Ceres — a trip that will carry it three billion miles by the time it is over.

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It will be about three more months before the spacecraft gets close enough to begin orbiting the huge proto-planet, but NASA said it is eager to get to work.

“We feel a little like Columbus approaching the shores of the New World,” said Christopher Russell, Dawn principal investigator, based at the University of California in Los Angeles.

“The Dawn team can’t wait to start mapping this Terra Incognita.”

After orbiting Vesta for about a year, the unmanned Dawn spacecraft will then carry on to Ceres, an even larger asteroid, in 2015, NASA said.

The deep-space probe is carrying photographic and science instruments to study the surface of the asteroids and analyze their gravitational pull.

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Dawn’s mission is to learn about the first moments of the solar system’s creation 4.6 billion years ago by gathering information about Ceres and Vesta, including what kinds of elements form such terrestrial planets, among them Earth, Mars and Mercury.

It also plans to explain why and how Vesta and Ceres followed a different evolutionary and formative path, particularly the role that water may have played in their development.

Ceres, discovered in 1801, has a spherical shape and a diameter of about 960 kilometers (596 miles). Scientists believe it may have a layer of thick ice under its crust, covering a rocky core.

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Ceres was classified in 2006 as a “dwarf planet,” according to a new definition by astronomers to describe asteroids in the solar system.

The decision by the International Astronomical Union was the result of a debate about the status of Pluto, which is now classified as a dwarf planet along with Ceres and another celestial body, Eris.

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Vesta, discovered in 1807, is smaller than Ceres but is the third largest asteroid in the solar system. With a diameter of 520 kilometers (323 miles), Vesta has a rocky surface without a trace of water and a hot interior.

Scientists are especially interested in the enormous crater on the south pole of Vesta, 460 kilometers wide and 13 kilometers deep, which is believed to be the result of a major collision.

After having canceled the Dawn project previously, NASA revived the mission in 2006 after an investment of 449 million dollars.

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“After more than three and a half years of interplanetary travel, we are finally closing in on our first destination,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“We’re not there yet, but Dawn will soon bring into focus an entire world that has been, for most of the two centuries scientists have been studying it, little more than a pinpoint of light.”


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DC police union buried in mockery after accidentally revealing their own incompetence in stopping crime

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On Friday, the Twitter account for the Washington, D.C. police union posted statistics on a recent upswing in crime rates in the area — trying to imply that police accountability reforms in the wake of the George Floyd killing are preventing officers from doing their jobs.

YoY Crime Stats in DC 6/3 - 7/3

Homicide ⬆️28%Armed Robbery ⬆️33%Shootings ⬆️41%Burglary ⬆️45%Stolen Auto ⬆️45%

This is what ‘knee-jerk’ policies look like in your neighborhood.

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WATCH: Trump advisor trashes Dr. Fauci — while pushing coronavirus conspiracy theories

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White House economic advisor Peter Navarro pushed several conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic as the administration attempts to deflect blame for America responding to coronavirus worse than any other developed country.

At one point in the interview, MSNBC's Ali Velshi had to ask, "What are you talking about?"

Navarro harshly criticized Dr. Tony Fauci, who is one of his colleagues in the administration.

And he tried to blame the "Chinese Communist Party" for the disease, saying "they spawned the virus, they hid virus, they sent hundreds of thousands of Chinese nationalists over here to seed and spread the virus before we knew."

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2020 Election

Ron DeSantis threw temper tantrum after Trump hired strategist he ‘exiled’ from Florida GOP: report

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On Friday, Politico reported that President Donald Trump has brought back longtime Florida Republican strategist Susie Wiles to try to save his electoral chances in the critical swing state — and that Gov. Ron DeSantis, who worked to cast her out of power in the Florida GOP, is enraged by the move.

"Trump’s decision to reinstate Susie Wiles to his campaign’s good inner circle follows months of behind-the-scenes efforts to bring her back after she was exiled at the demand of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had her cast out of the president’s good graces in September," reported Gary Fineout and Marc Caputo, and it "comes as polls show Trump trailing Democrat Joe Biden in Trump's adopted home state. Trump won Florida four years ago by less than 113,000 votes and a loss in the battleground would likely doom his reelection effort."

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