NASA's Dawn asteroid mission ends as fuel runs out

04 November, 2018, 12:27 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • An artist's rendition of NASA's Dawn spacecraft heading towards Ceres

Dawn missed scheduled communications sessions with NASA's Deep Space Network on October 31 and November 1.

'Today, we celebrate the end of our Dawn mission - its incredible technical achievements, the vital science it gave us, and the entire team who enabled the spacecraft to make these discoveries, ' NASA's Thomas Zurbuchen said in a statement.

NASA said that the data collect by the spacecraft was invaluable for researchers examining the history of the solar system.

Dawn is dead, but Dawn is not gone: Today NASA said that the Dawn spacecraft has fallen out of contact with Earth, presumably because it's run out of the thruster fuel that was used to keep its antennas oriented toward Earth and its power-generating solar panels oriented toward the sun.

Because of the life-on-Ceres question, NASA chose to keep Dawn spinning in orbit rather than sending the probe down to crash onto the dwarf planet's pockmarked surface. The unmanned spacecraft has traveled 4.3 billion miles (6.9 billion kilometers) since launching in 2007. In 2011, he achieved the largest asteroid Solar system asteroid Vesta, and explored it until August 2012, then went to the dwarf planet Ceres and went on its orbit in March 2015, where it remains still.

Dawn remained in orbit around Ceres for the rest of its mission, although mission managers proposed at one point leaving orbit to fly by another asteroid.

'The demands we put on Dawn were tremendous, but it met the challenge every time.

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Mission director and chief engineer Marc Rayman insisted he wasn't sad.

It is expected to remain in orbit around Ceres for decades, but will no longer be able to communicate with Earth.

Dawn was the first spacecraft to orbit two different extraterrestrial bodies.

The data Dawn beamed back to Earth from its four science experiments enabled scientists to compare two planet-like worlds that evolved very differently. NASA officials announced Tuesday (Oct. 30) that the agency's Kepler space telescope, which has discovered 70 percent of the 3,800 known alien planets to date, is out of fuel as well. "It's hard to say goodbye to this fantastic spaceship, but it's time". Scientists regard these two bodies as leftovers from the solar system's planet-formation period, which explains the mission's name.

Among its accomplishments, Dawn showed how important location was to the way objects in the early solar system formed and evolved, NASA said. Zurbuchen said the scientific learning from Dawn's mission will go on.

Dawn also reinforced the idea that dwarf planets could have hosted oceans over a significant part of their history - and potentially still do.

The Dawn mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The dwarf planet is therefore an intriguing target for astrobiologists, especially when another Dawn discovery is taken into account: The probe detected organic molecules, the carbon-containing building blocks of life as we know it, on Ceres' surface.

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