NASA Dawn Spacecraft Runs Out of Fuel

in Project HOPElast year

The team behind NASA's Dawn mission has confirmed that Dawn has ended its mission to explore the asteroid belt. More accurately, Dawn has run out of the hydrazine fuel it uses to stay oriented so that it can keep its antenna pointed at Earth and recharge its batteries with its solar panels.

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The spacecraft missed its scheduled communications with the Deep Space Network on October 31 and November 1, not that it surprised the team very much. The fuel has actually lasted a little longer than expected.
“We’ve known for months that it would most likely run out of fuel between the middle of September and the middle of October,” said Dawn chief engineer Marc Raymond.

Dawn launched in 2007 to explore Vesta and Ceres, the two largest objects in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. On the surface, Vesta looks like a normal, if large, asteroid at 325 miles in diameter. Based on data from Dawn, scientists now believe that Vesta actually has an iron core. It also contains water-rich minerals that were likely delivered by collisions with comets and other asteroids.
“The same process has been invoked as an explanation for how Earth has so much water, so that is a really nice discovery to make,” Raymond said.

Exploration of Ceres, a dwarf planet with a diameter of 588 miles, turned up even more interesting discoveries. Scientists have found evidence of volcanic activity at some point in the past. The data from Dawn suggests that Ceres may have had a briny ocean under its surface and might still have pockets of underground liquid water. Dawn also detected signs of organic molecules on the surface. The dwarf planet may have also formed in the outer solar system and migrated to the asteroid belt.

Engineers have determined that the Dawn spacecraft did not require as dramatic a demise as Galileo's famous plunge into Jupiter's atmosphere because it is in a stable orbit and unlikely to contaminate any habitable worlds. Dawn simply turned its antenna off when it ran out of fuel. NASA engineers and scientists have expressed an interest in sending future missions to the asteroid belt.

“There is so much more we want to learn,” Raymond said. “We didn’t go and find this inert object with a record of stuff that used to happen. It was almost like, ‘It’s alive.’”


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scientists now believe that Vesta actually has an iron core. It also contains water-rich minerals that were likely delivered by collisions with comets and other asteroids.

Please permit me to ask, do scientist in anyway plan to get the mineral resources present here or what is the essence of this whole space travel thing in the first place.

In my opinion, this is not only the desire to explore other worlds, remember that all these expeditions are financed by the same corporations that destroy the planet. Therefore, it would be logical to think that their intention is to seek other places to exploit. Normally everything is about money and business.

Dawn has run out of the hydrazine fuel it uses to stay oriented so that it can keep its antenna pointed at Earth and recharge its batteries with its solar panels.

Wow! This really sounds astonishing though because this will be the first time I'm hearing such a thing. But is it that the team couldn't fill up the fuel before commencing the mission or what?

I'm also wondering how they will get sun to charge the solar system unless the location contains some portion of solar radiation.

We’ve known for months that it would most likely run out of fuel between the middle of September and the middle of October,” said Dawn chief engineer Marc Raymond.

They ought to have done something about it before now even though if it means designing an additional fuel supplement or increasing the spacecraft fuel capacity to attain more fuel.

NASA engineers and scientists have expressed an interest in sending future missions to the asteroid belt.

This is actually very impressive and a great development by the NASA team. I just hope they will also be able to make more research about asteroids during the process.

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Dawn simply turned its antenna off when it ran out of fuel.

So does this means that this spacecraft can still manage to stay intact without malfunction due to its fuel finishing? Because I feel this is fantastic. Nice write up. Well-done.

These discoveries in Ceres are really impressive, the advances in science are progressively surpassing science fiction and being an amazing reality.

@tipu curate

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They should create mobile, self-sustaining fuel stations ^_^