• NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has gone silent, ending a historic mission that studied time capsules from the solar system’s earliest chapter.
• After the flight team eliminated other possible causes for the missed communications, mission managers concluded that the spacecraft finally ran out of hydrazine.
• The fuel that enables the spacecraft to control its pointing.
• Dawn can no longer keep its antennae trained on Earth to communicate with mission control or turn its solar panels to the Sun to recharge.
• The Dawn spacecraft launched 11 years ago to visit the two largest objects in the main asteroid belt.
• Currently, it’s in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, where it will remain for decades.
<b.About Dawn spacecraft
• Dawn launched in 2007 on a journey that put about 4.3 billion miles (6.9 billion kilometers) on its odometer.
• Propelled by ion engines, the spacecraft achieved many firsts along the way.
• In 2011, when Dawn arrived at Vesta, the second largest world in the main asteroid belt, the spacecraft became the first to orbit a body in the region between Mars and Jupiter.
• In 2015, when Dawn went into orbit around Ceres, a dwarf planet that is also the largest world in the asteroid belt, the mission became the first to visit a dwarf planet and go into orbit around two destinations beyond Earth.
• The data Dawn beamed back to Earth from its four science experiments enabled scientists to compare two planet-like worlds that evolved very differently.
• Dawn showed how important location was to the way objects in the early solar system formed and evolved.
• Dawn also reinforced the idea that dwarf planets could have hosted oceans over a significant part of their history and potentially still do.
• Ceres has conditions of interest to scientists who study chemistry that leads to the development of life.
• NASA follows strict planetary protection protocols for the disposal of the Dawn spacecraft.
• Dawn will 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.
• The Dawn mission is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
• Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
• JPL is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Northrop Grumman in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft.
• The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team.
Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology
Prelims level: Dawn Mission
Mains level: National & International Space missions and their objectives