Monday, September 11, 2017
To Boldly Go... Well, You Know: NASA's Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt
Dr. Marc Rayman - Dawn Mission Director/Chief Engineer, JPL
This lecture is open to the public.
Refreshments begin at 4:30pm.
The ambitious and exciting Dawn mission is one of NASA's most remarkable ventures into the solar system. The spacecraft completed a spectacular exploration of Vesta in 2011-2012 and arrived in orbit around Ceres in 2015. These were among the last uncharted worlds in the inner solar system prior to Dawn. They are the two largest residents of the main asteroid belt, that vast collection of bodies between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres is so large that it is included in the category of dwarf planets, along with Pluto. The alien landscapes Dawn reveals provide humankind with a new perspective on the solar system. Remnants from the time that planets were formed, Ceres and Vesta hold clues that will help scientists understand the dawn of the solar system.
Dawn is the only spacecraft ever to orbit a dwarf planet and is the only one ever to orbit any two extraterrestrial destinations. It has also maneuvered extensively in orbit to optimize its observations. Such a mission would be impossible without the use of ion propulsion, a technology that has largely been in the domain of science fiction.
Dr. Marc Rayman will give a fascinating and entertaining presentation on the Dawn mission and its use of ion propulsion as well as its two exotic destinations. He also will share the excitement and profundity of controlling a spaceship in deep space.
Marc Rayman grew up in Toledo, Ohio and earned an A.B. in physics from Princeton University. His undergraduate work focused on astrophysics and cosmology. He received an M.S. in physics from the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he conducted investigations in nuclear physics. He then performed research at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA) on experimental tests of special relativity and atomic and laser physics, and received his Ph.D. there. He continued at JILA as a postdoctoral researcher. He spent his six years at JILA working with Dr. John Hall, who subsequently won a Nobel Prize in Physics.
Dr. Rayman combined his scientific training with his lifelong study and interest in the exploration of space by joining NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1986. His work there has spanned a broad range, including optical interferometry missions for detecting planets around other stars, a Mars sample return mission, a Mars laser altimeter, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the development of systems to use lasers instead of radios to communicate with interplanetary spacecraft.
In 1994, he helped initiate a new NASA program to characterize highly advanced and risky technologies for future space science missions by flying them on dedicated test flights. The first mission of this New Millennium program, Deep Space 1, was launched in October 1998, and he worked on it from its inception in 1995 to its conclusion in 2001. During the course of the project, Dr. Rayman served as chief mission engineer, mission director, and project manager. The new technologies that were tested on DS1 (including such exotic systems as ion propulsion and artificial intelligence) were designed to reduce the cost and risk and to improve the performance of subsequent interplanetary missions. The primary mission was extremely successful and led to a very productive and exciting extended mission, culminating in a spectacular encounter with Comet Borrelly that yielded the best images that had ever been taken of the nucleus of a comet. The spacecraft remains in orbit around the Sun. Now he is mission manager and chief engineer on a mission that builds on DS1 to study two of the largest unexplored worlds in the inner solar system. Launched in September 2007, Dawn will visit the two most massive asteroids, Ceres and Vesta, in an ambitious mission that should reveal much about the dawn of the solar system.
Dr. Rayman is the recipient of numerous honors. Among his awards from NASA are two Exceptional Achievement Medals and the Outstanding Leadership Medal. In addition, he is the only person to have won both the Exceptional Technical Excellence Award and the Exceptional Leadership Award, two of JPL's highest honors. Asteroid Rayman was named in recognition of his contributions to space exploration.
For more information, please go to: http://kiss.caltech.edu/lectures/2017_Dawn.html
Seating is limited and is available on a first come first served basis.
This lecture is sponsored by the Keck Institute for Space Studies.