NASAs Dawn spacecraft ends asteroid mission, but its legacy lives on
05 November, 2018, 22:42 | Author: Tara Reeves
"The machine Dawn has not been in contact with the deep space Network on Wednesday 31 October and Thursday 1 November, NASA announced".
After the flight team eliminated other possible causes for the missed communications, mission managers concluded that the spacecraft finally ran out of hydrazine, the fuel that enables the spacecraft to control its pointing.
Scientists have known for about a month that Dawn was nearly out of hydrazine, a fuel that kept the spacecraft's antennae oriented toward Earth and helped turn its solar panels to the sun to recharge.
"The goals we laid at Dawn, was incredible, but every time he did, says Rayman". Dawn is the first spacecraft to orbit two extra-terrestrial bodies, the first spacecraft to visit either Vesta or Ceres, and the first to visit a dwarf planet, arriving at Ceres in March 2015, a few months before New Horizons flew by Pluto in July 2015.
Scientists will continue to follow up on Dawn's findings.
Dawn has registered about 6.9 billion miles on its odometer. Now that it's no longer capable of communicating, much less maneuvering, it is expected to remain in orbit around Ceres for decades or longer.
This artist's concept summarizes our understanding of how the inside of Ceres could be structured, based on the data returned by the NASA's Dawn mission.
In 2016, NASA Osiris-Rex principal investigator Dante Lauretta said: "We're not anywhere near that kind of energy for an impact".
Among the most astounding images were Dawn's views of Ceres' mysterious white spots, which reflected sunlight so brightly they were dubbed "alien headlights".
So, while the mission plan doesn't provide the closure of a final, fiery plunge - the way NASA's Cassini spacecraft ended a year ago, for example - at least this is certain: Dawn spent every last drop of hydrazine making science observations of Ceres and radioing them back so we could learn more about the solar system we call home. "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". JPL is responsible for overall Dawn mission science.
Shortly before Dawn used the last of its fuel, it maneuvered into a high, stable orbit, where scientists are confident it will stay for the next 50 years.
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