NASA’s Dawn Mission Ends After Running Out Of Fuel

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

Dawn missed scheduled communications sessions with NASA's Deep Space Network on October 31 and November 1, the U.S. space agency said in a statement.

Once the spacecraft lost the scheduled communication with NASA's Deep Space Network for two times on Wednesday and Thursday, the U.S. space agency officially declared the mission as "ended".

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.

"The goals we laid at Dawn, was incredible, but every time he did, says Rayman". In 2011, when Dawn arrived at Vesta, the second largest world in the main asteroid belt, the spacecraft became the first to orbit a body in the region between Mars and Jupiter.

Propelled by an efficient ion engine, Dawn delved into the unknown and achieved what's never been attempted before: it is the first mission to orbit an object in the main asteroid belt, the first to visit a dwarf planet, and the first to orbit two deep-space destinations, according to NASA. 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. Its prolonged silence prompted NASA to declare it dead Thursday, two days after delivering eulogies to the planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope.

By the time the spacecraft ran out of fuel it had around 4.3 billion miles under its belt.

Dawn is now in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres about 243 million miles away from the sun. That way, in case NASA wants to send a follow-up mission, Dawn will not collide with Ceres before they do, keeping the planet free from human-and bacterial-contamination.

"In many ways, Dawn's legacy is just beginning", said Dawn's principal investigator Carol Raymond.

The Dawn spacecraft was never one of NASA's most widely known missions, but it helped expand our understanding of the solar system.

Among the most astounding images were Dawn's views of Ceres' mysterious white spots, which reflected sunlight so brightly they were dubbed "alien headlights". JPL is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. 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.

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