Topic: "Ion Propulsion"(7)
Difficult it is to assimilate the differences in the "national mood" over a period of 42 years, or a generation-and-a-half in broader terms. In July of 1969 Frodo, nay not Frodo, the entire human race, watched as we all stepped across the galaxy in order to walk upon the moon. In just a few short days, the last of the space shuttles will park itself, permanently, ending manned spaceflight for American eyes to observe with pride and glory. In fact, the continuance of space exploration itself, as well as the scientific search for truth, will shift away from the promise of a national effort, all because of money. The accomplishments and the contributions of space exploration are almost impossible to chronicle as part of our now everyday world, ranging from laptop computers to television pictures of hurricanes building strength far out to sea. There is however, one more promise on our doorstep, and Frodo is amazed that he cannot find a single person who even had a clue about its existence.
A spacecraft named Dawn, launched more than four years ago, will slip into orbit this day around an asteroid named Vesta. In a few hours hence, Dawn will similarly manuver itself into orbit around an even more impressive asteroid, named Ceres. Not wishing to demean that which will be learned about the very beginnings of the universe, Frodo is watching closely the performance of Dawn in its use of ion propulsion engines. Dawn will be the first to orbit two asteroids because this futuristic power source allows gentle, yet constant, acceleration, and at a fraction of the energy expended by conventional rocket fuel. Dawn will be able to zip around in an asteroid belt and she represents a very big step toward energy conservation on Mother Earth, our small blue planet.
In times to come, the significance of this day's "Dawn" and what she represents may be appreciated as one more colossal contribution to the future of the civilizations that follow us. Today, few will notice.
Frodo is proud of those whose dreams brought us to this day, and to our Dawn.