Mission done: NASA lost contact with the station Dawn

Katie Ramirez
November 5, 2018

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 spacecraft this week stopped communicating with flight controllers, prompting NASA to declare it dead on Thursday. It then moved to the dwarf planet Ceres in 2015, becoming the first spacecraft to visit such a space object, NASA reported. "The astounding images and data that Dawn collected from Vesta and Ceres are critical to understanding the history and evolution of our solar system".

"Today, we celebrate the end of our Dawn mission - its incredible technical achievements, the vital science it gave us, and the entire team who enabled the spacecraft to make these discoveries", said Thomas Zurbuchen, an associate administrator at NASA's Science Mission Directorate, in a statement on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Nasa announced that its exoplanet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope had run out of hydrazine fuel, and the craft would be commanded to cease operations.

Launched in 2007, Dawn accomplished a journey propelled by ion engines that put about 4.3 billion miles (6.9 billion km) on its odometer.

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It is expected to remain in orbit around Ceres for decades, but will no longer be able to communicate with Earth. That way, in case NASA wants to send a follow-up mission, Dawn will not collide with Ceres before they do, keeping the planet free from human-and bacterial-contamination.

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 Dawn mission was managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, with spacecraft components contributed by European partners from Italy, Germany, France, and the Netherlands.

Before arriving to Ceres, the spacecraft had recorded details about new phenomena that challenged everything we know about these dwarf planets. In addition to returning a carbon-rich asteroid sample and studying Bennu's surface and composition, NASA's OSIRIS-REx will also look into how sunlight affects its orbit and document its regolith, the layer of material covering its surface.

"In many ways, Dawn's legacy is just beginning", said Principal Investigator Carol Raymond at JPL. Detailed readings from Dawn's suite of four science instruments led scientists to conclude that the spots were deposits of sodium carbonate, pushed up from the dwarf planet's interior.

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