Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Breaking Dawn: NASA's asteroid belt mission runs out of fuel

NASA's Dawn spacecraft Modal Trigger NASA's Dawn spacecraft. NASA
Kristen Harrington | 05 November, 2018, 22:40

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

In 2011, it arrived at Vesta, the second largest object in the asteroid belt that is nearly twice the size of California.

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.

"The fact that my car's license plate frame proclaims, 'My other vehicle is in the main asteroid belt, ' shows how much pride I take in Dawn", said mission director Marc Rayman from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Then in 2015, Dawn moved onto the largest world in the belt: the dwarf planet Ceres. The Kepler space telescope came up short on fuel recently, obviously, ending up its nine and a half year mission of exploring for planets outside the Earth's solar system. "The demands we made on Dawn were tremendous, but she always faced the challenge. It's hard to say goodbye to this awesome spaceship, but it's time", he said in the press release. Before joining Sun Star Times Andy has written for NPR, Motherboard, MSN and the Huffington Post.

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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.

The probe has a payload of five scientific instruments that it will use to bring back a carbon-rich asteroid sample but also to study the surface and composition of the asteroid.

"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 from NASA's Science Mission Directorate in a statement.

Dawn also reinforced the idea that dwarf planets could have hosted oceans over a significant part of their history - and potentially still do.

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Of that total, China imported about $130bn of goods from the United States. Both are seen as eyeing new ways into China.

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

The Dawn mission launched in September 2007.

Among the most astounding images were Dawn's views of Ceres' mysterious white spots, which reflected sunlight so brightly they were dubbed "alien headlights".

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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The force said eight children had been taken to hospitals with "potentially serious injuries". The 36-year-old said: "We saw all the blue lights and saw the air ambulance arriving.

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