NASA's Dawn Mission to Asteroid Belt Comes to End

11-Year-Old Mission Ends As NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Goes Silent

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

The probe, now in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, missed communications with NASA's Deep Space Network on Wednesday and Thursday; and mission managers were forced to confirm the end of the mission.

The 11-year mission to investigate "time capsules from the solar system's earliest chapter" in the asteroid belt concluded after Dawn finally ran out of hydrazine fuel, which meant it could no longer turn to face Earth, to communicate, or the sun, to recharge.

"The fact that my car's license plate reads "my other vehicle is in the asteroid belt" shows how proud I am of Dawn", said Dawn mission's director and chief engineer Marc Rayman. "It's hard to say goodbye to this incredible spacecraft, but it's time", he added.

After visiting Vesta, Dawn continued its travels and in March 2015 arrived at and went into a three-year orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, which is also the largest object in the asteroid belt.

We will remind, interplanetary station Dawn, which, since 2007, explored the Solar system and visited the asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres, has stopped communicating. As the first spaceship to visit a dwarf planet, Dawn has also proved vital in revealing that these dinky worlds have the potential to support oceans.

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NASA has lost a second spacecraft this week, ending a fruitful mission in the asteroid belt.

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

Dawn should remain in orbit around Ceres for decades, according to NASA.

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. "Dawn's data sets will be deeply mined by scientists working on how planets grow and differentiate, and when and where life could have formed in our solar system", said Principal Investigator Carol Raymond at JPL.

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. "Ceres and Vesta are important to the study of distant planetary systems, too, as they provide a glimpse of the conditions that may exist around young stars".

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