‘NASA’s historic Dawn mission to asteroid belt comes to end’

• 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.

Other highlights

• 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.

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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

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