NASA's Dawn Asteroid Mission Ends as Fuel Runs Out

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Dawn left Vesta a year later, and in 2015 it entered the orbit of the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the entire asteroid belt, where it spent the remainder of its time.

Dawn can no longer keep its antennas trained on Earth to communicate with mission control or turn its solar panels to the Sun to recharge. Associate administrator, Thomas Zurbuchen from the NASA science mission directorate in Washington, hailed Dawn's "incredible technical achievements" and "vital science". NASA's Dawn became the only spacecraft to orbit a cosmic body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter in 2011 when it began orbiting around Vesta.

What is 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. The space agency retired its Kepler Space Telescope on Tuesday.

"The demands we put on Dawn were tremendous, but it met the challenge every time". Before joining Sun Star Times Andy has written for NPR, Motherboard, MSN and the Huffington Post. Based on the data from the Dawn mission, scientists were also able to confirm that Vesta is the parent object the of howardite-eucrite-diogenite meteorites found on Earth.

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

Researchers at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC), said the new photo of the asteroid Bennu is just the first of more exciting observations to come.

In addition to the main objectives of the mission by taking the unique sample of the asteroid, OSIRIS-REx will also study the surface and composition of the asteroid, measure the effects of sunlight on its orbit.

An artist's concept of Dawn arriving at Ceres.

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