Science & Nature

How ‘Spock’s Brain’ Inspired Ion Propulsion

In 2007, NASA sent a cutting edge spacecraft called DAWN on a mission to the asteroid belt. Its first destination was the giant asteroid Vesta. After orbiting Vesta and collecting tons of data, the DAWN spacecraft will perform space moves rivaling those of Star Trek’s U.S.S. Enterprise: it will head for and orbit its second destination, the asteroid Ceres.

How will DAWN be able to accomplish such a feat? The DAWN spacecraft is powered with a new technology called “ion propulsion”.  According to Dr. Marc Rayman, an engineer with NASA JPL’s Dawn mission:

Dawn will be the first spacecraft ever built to orbit two target bodies after leaving Earth. There’s not even a concept for doing such a mission with conventional propulsion systems. The spacecraft would have to carry so much fuel, it would be too heavy to launch.

In the featured video, Dr. Rayman explains how the Star Trek episode ‘Spock’s Brain’ fired up his imagination as a kid. You can also read more about ‘How Capt. Kirk Changed the World’.

Keep up with the DAWN Mission by following Dr. Marc Rayman’s journal

[Handel Productions]

 

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