Another NASA spacecraft runs out of steam, 2nd this week

Dawn Ceres NASA

According to the space agency, the spacecraft missed scheduled communications sessions with NASA's Deep Space Network not only on October 31 but also November 1.

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 fantastic images and data received from Dawn at Vesta and Ceres, is essential to understanding the history and evolution of the Solar system", says Tubergen. Scientists found about a month ago that Dawn was running out of hydrazine, the fuel that kept the spacecraft's antennas facing Earth and helped turn its solar panels toward the Sun to recharge its battery cells. It is expected to remain in orbit around Ceres for decades, but will no longer be able to communicate with Earth as it ran out of fuel.

Dawn was launched in 2007 and arrived at its first destination-the asteroid Vesta-in the summer of 2011.

"The demands we put on Dawn were tremendous, but it met the challenge every time. It's hard to say goodbye to this incredible spaceship, but it's time", said Marc Rayman, Mission Director and Chief Engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

This artist's concept summarizes our understanding of how the inside of Ceres could be structured, based on the data returned by the NASA's Dawn mission. "It's hard to say goodbye to this awesome spaceship, but it's time".

Vesta probably formed in the inner solar system and stayed between Mars and Jupiter, and it evolved just like the other rocky planets there.

The spacecraft OSIRIS-REx carries a payload of five scientific instruments which he will use to study the asteroid. 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. Dawn spent nearly a decade studying a pair of asteroids in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, learning as much as it could about those odd worlds.

"In many ways, Dawn's legacy is just beginning", Principal Investigator Carol Raymond at JPL said.

Dawn also detected an abundance of organic molecules in one of Ceres' craters, which might have come from the planet's ocean. "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". Northrop Grumman in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft.

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