NASA's 'Dawn Mission' to an asteroid belt comes to an end

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has run out of fuel and dropped out of contact with mission control the agency said Thursday

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has run out of fuel and dropped out of contact with mission control the agency said Thursday

NASA's connection with the Dawn spacecraft has gone quiet.

Dawn missed scheduled communications sessions with NASA's Deep Space Networkon Wednesday, Oct. 31, and Thursday, Nov. 1.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has run out of fuel and dropped out of contact with mission control, the agency said Thursday.

Without this ability, Dawn was no longer able to set its antennas to communicate with its controllers on Earth, nor could it turn and adjust its solar panels to get a power recharge from the Sun.

NASA's OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security Regolith Explorer) spacecraft was launched over two years ago, in September 2016 with the goal of exploring the Bennu asteroid. The "astounding" images collected by Dawn are shedding light on the history and evolution of our solar system, said NASA's science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen.

Dawn launched in 2007 on a journey that put about 6.9 billion kilometers on its odometer.

"The spacecraft was moving when doing these shots with PolyCam camera, and Benn returned to 1.2 degrees for nearly one minute passed between the first and last images. It's hard to say goodbye to this awesome spaceship, but it's time", said Mission Director and Chief Engineer Marc Rayman at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

"The goals we laid at Dawn, was incredible, but every time he did, says Rayman. It's hard to say goodbye to this wonderful spaceship, but it's time". This is why the scientists studying Dawn's data believe that Ceres once hosted an ocean, and there could even be liquid beneath the surface.

Vesta probably formed in the inner solar system and stayed between Mars and Jupiter, and it evolved just like the other rocky planets there. As the first spaceship to visit a dwarf planet, Dawn has also proved vital in revealing that these dinky worlds have the potential to support oceans.

In 2016, NASA Osiris-Rex principal investigator Dante Lauretta said: "We're not anywhere near that kind of energy for an impact". "Ceres and Vesta are important to the study of distant planetary systems, too, as they provide a glimpse of the conditions that may exist around young stars", Raymond said.

An artist's concept of Dawn arriving at Ceres.

Described as "super-resolution" images, the pictures were created by combining eight seperate images of the asteroid.

The Dawn orbiter has been flying around the dwarf planet Ceres for some time now. Dawn's orbital path is stable enough to remain in orbit for at least 20 years, and engineers have more than 99 percent confidence the orbit will last for at least 50 years. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Detailed readings from Dawn's suite of four science instruments led scientists to conclude that the spots were deposits of sodium carbonate, pushed up from the dwarf planet's interior. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are global partners on the mission team.

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