NASA Dawn spacecraft runs out of fuel days after Kepler loss

  • NASA Dawn spacecraft runs out of fuel days after Kepler loss

NASA Dawn spacecraft runs out of fuel days after Kepler loss

- "Astounding images" - Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the NASA science mission directorate in Washington, hailed Dawn's "vital science" and "incredible technical achievements". Arrays of the data collected by Dawn will be deeply researched by scientists who are trying to figure out how planets grow and geologically differenciate when and where life may have formed in the Solar system. After eliminating other possible causes for the lack of transmissions, managers concluded that the spacecraft had run out of hydrazine fuel for its attitude control thrusters, preventing it from maneuvering to orient its main antenna towards the Earth or its solar panels towards the sun.

Because of the life-on-Ceres question, NASA made a decision to keep Dawn spinning in orbit rather than sending the probe down to crash onto the dwarf planet's pockmarked surface.

Part of NASA's Discovery Program, Dawn launched in 2007 on a journey that put about 4.3 billion miles (6.9 billion km) on its odometer. Dawn became the only spacecraft ever to orbit a cosmic body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter in 2011 when it began circling the asteroid Vesta.

In 2015, Dawn became the first to visit a dwarf planet and go into orbit around two destinations beyond Earth.

A NASA spacecraft named Dawn that studied two of the largest objects in the asteroid belt has ended its 11-year mission after running out of fuel. "The demands we put on Dawn were tremendous, but it met the challenge every time".

"To within our current uncertainty, there's zero usable hydrazine remaining", said Marc Rayman, chief engineer and mission director for Dawn at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, during a presentation October 4 at the International Astronautical Congress in Bremen, Germany.

It is expected to remain in orbit around Ceres for decades, but will no longer be able to communicate with Earth.

NASA's Dawn mission, that propelled in 2007, looked for after to describe the procedures that dominated early scheme evolution.

The spacecraft this week stopped communicating with flight controllers, prompting NASA to declare it dead on Thursday.

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. "It's hard to say goodbye to this awesome spaceship, but it's time".

The early birthplace of bodies was key to how the early solar system organised and evolved. Particularly with the discovery of 'Oumuamua, a comet from another solar system, Dawn's data on Ceres and Vesta will help scientists rewind the clock to better understand how planetary systems - our own and others - form. 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. JPL is responsible for overall Dawn mission science.