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Courk
Daedalian Member

Posted: Mon Jul 04, 2011 7:15 am    Post subject: 1

 Quote: The craft, the largest probe ever launched by NASA, is about half-way through its three-month approach phase to Vesta, 96,000 miles away and closing in at the sedate speed of about 260 mph. The whole procedure is happening so slowly, in terms of normal asteroid flybys and planetary encounters, that scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Caņada Flintridge will not be able to calculate precisely when the craft entered orbit until after the fact.

I would have thought moving slowly --> more time to do math and account for unexpected variables --> will be able to know before hand when it will enter orbit. Can someone explain this to me?
Zag
Tired of his old title

 Posted: Mon Jul 04, 2011 4:46 pm    Post subject: 2 Well, their estimate will get more accurate as it gets closer (assuming they are always able to track its position). The problem moving slowly is that gravitational pull of smaller objects whose mass they don't know precisely have more time to have an affect. They can see that an asteroid will pass close by, and they know that the asteroid is between 6 and 8 tons, the difference between the high and low estimates on its mass can have a real difference in the velocity of the probe after the asteroid has gone by. If the probe were moving faster, then the estimated asteroid is not going to be close enough long enough for that difference to matter much.
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