Another NASA spacecraft runs out of steam, 2nd this week

Another NASA spacecraft runs out of steam, 2nd this week

Another NASA spacecraft runs out of steam, 2nd this week

While they are only two of the billions of objects in the asteroid belt, they contain a whopping 45 percent of its mass. NASA announced the end of Dawn's asteroid mission's end on Thursday (Nov. 1).

The Kepler space telescope ran out of fuel earlier this week, as expected, ending its nine and a half year mission of hunting for planets outside our solar system.

A NASA spacecraft that visited two of the largest objects in the solar system's main asteroid belt has run out of fuel, ending its mission, NASA announced November 1.

Dawn's mission was to visit the two largest objects in the main asteroid belt, Vesta and Ceres, and it now remains in orbit around the latter.

As NASA explains, the spacecraft has traveled an incredible distance during its 11+ years in space.

Dawn has travelled 4.3 billion miles (6.9 billion km) since launching in 2007.

"Both Vesta and Ceres had previously only been viewed mostly as just faint smudges of light amidst the stars", Marc Rayman, Dawn's mission director at NASA, told Space.com.

With its hydrazine depleted, Dawn will remain in orbit for decades before eventually crashing to the surface of Ceres. Dawn's data sets will be deeply mined by scientists working on how planets grow and differentiate, and when and where life could have formed in our solar system.

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

Running low on fuel for some time, the Dawn spacecraft this week stopped communicating with flight controllers. Dawn was a spectacular success by any measure.

'The demands we put on Dawn were tremendous, but it met the challenge every time. "It's hard to say goodbye to this wonderful spaceship, but it's time".

The data collected by Dawn helped scientists better understand the two worlds, as well as broader questions about the formation and evolution of the solar system.

'To me, that is a fitting end to an extraordinary extraterrestrial expedition, ' Mr Rayman said.

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