NASAs historic Dawn mission ends after running out of fuel

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

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

NASA announced that the Dawn spacecraft was silent during two communications sessions on the Deep Space Network Oct. 31 and November 1.

"Today, we celebrate the end of our Dawn mission - its incredible technical achievements, the vital science it gave us, and the entire team who enabled the spacecraft to make these discoveries", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate here.

NASA said that the data collect by the spacecraft was invaluable for researchers examining the history of the solar system.

The $467 million Dawn mission launched in September 2007 to study the protoplanet Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres, which are about 330 miles (530 kilometers) and 590 miles (950 km) wide, respectively. NASA says its spacecraft clocked around 4.3 billion miles, having arrived at Vesta in 2011 following its 2007 launch.

Propelled by three ion engines, the 11-year-old Dawn was the first spacecraft to orbit an object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and also the first to orbit two places beyond Earth.

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"The demands we put on Dawn were tremendous, but it met the challenge every time", Rayman said in the statement. As noted by the jet propulsion Laboratory of NASA engineers came to the conclusion that on Board the probe ran out of fuel, and he can't Orient the antenna to the Ground. The orbit is where Dawn will continue to drift.

This photo of Ceres and one of its key landmarks, Ahuna Mons, was one of the last views Dawn transmitted before it completed its mission. "It's hard to say goodbye to this unbelievable spaceship, but it's time".

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. That's intentional, as Ceres has conditions that could be right for life, and engineers want to prevent contact between the spacecraft (and any potential Earth microbes it may carry) and the dwarf planet.

The end of the Dawn mission comes only two days after NASA's Kepler space telescope was also retired due to a lack of fuel. Among its accomplishments, Dawn showed how important location was to the way objects in the early solar system formed and evolved. The spacecraft itself may indeed be dead, but Dawn's contribution to science is far from over. "Ceres and Vesta are important for studies of distant planetary systems, because they provide an opportunity to understand the conditions that exist in the vicinity of young stars", - said the scientific head of mission Carol Raymond.

At Ceres, Dawn discovered evidence for cryovolcanism, an analog to volcanism in which cryovolcanoes spew water and other organics, rather than molten rock. 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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