NASA asteroid-exploring Dawn spacecraft says a sad goodbye

Mindy Sparks
November 2, 2018

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). Its prolonged silence prompted NASA to declare it dead Thursday, two days after delivering eulogies to the planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope.

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.

The Dawn orbiter has been flying around the dwarf planet Ceres for some time now.

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. 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. By the time the spacecraft ran out of fuel it had around 4.3 billion miles under its belt. 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 Mission to Asteroid Belt Comes to End
NASA asteroid-exploring Dawn spacecraft says a sad goodbye

Dawn's four science experiments furthered humanity's understanding of planet formation and showed that dwarf planets could once have hosted their own oceans, and may still. Strict planetary protection protocols govern how NASA can dispose of crafts like Dawn, as they do not want to interfere with the chemistry on Ceres.

Rather, he said in an email: 'I'm thrilled it was so fantastically exciting and productive. 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.

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

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

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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