The U.S. space agency NASA declared on Thursday that its spacecraft Dawn has run out of fuel and gone silent, marking the end of its historic mission to study the two most massive bodies in the asteroid belt.
Dawn missed two communication sessions with NASA's Deep Space Network the past two days, which means it has lost the ability to turn its antennae toward the Earth or its solar panels toward the sun. "The demands we made on Dawn were tremendous, but she always faced the challenge".
Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA's Directorate of Scientific Missions, in Washington, praised Dawn's "science life" and "incredible technical achievements".
Plane crashes after mid-air collision in Canada
Police walk on to a property as they work at the site of a small plane crash in the Carp area of Ottawa on November 4, 2018. Canadian paramedics said one person was killed on Sunday after two small planes crashed mid-air in the capital of Ottawa .
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. Then in 2015, Dawn moved onto the largest world in the belt: the dwarf planet Ceres. 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.
"In many ways, Dawn's legacy is just beginning", said Principal Investigator Carol Raymond at JPL. Strict planetary protection protocols govern how NASA can dispose of crafts like Dawn, as they do not want to interfere with the chemistry on Ceres. This view, which faces south, was captured on September 1, 2018, at an altitude of 2220 miles (3570 kilometers) as the spacecraft was ascending in its elliptical orbit. 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.
Among its accomplishments, Dawn showed how important location was to the way objects in the early solar system formed and evolved, Nasa said. 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. The engineers have more than 99 percent confidence the orbit will last for at least 50 years, NASA stated on its website. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are worldwide partners on the mission team.