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NASA’s Dawn Mission To Asteroid Belt Comes to End

It went into orbit around Ceres, a dwarf planet that is also the largest world in the asteroid belt

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NASA to use Blockchain technology for air traffic management. Pixabay

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has gone silent, ending an 11-year-old historic mission to explore the two largest bodies in the main asteroid belt, Vesta and Ceres, the US space agency said.

Dawn missed scheduled communications sessions with NASA’s Deep Space Network on October 31 and November 1.

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 which keeps the spacecraft oriented and in communication with Earth, NASA said in a statement late on Thursday.

“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, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

“The astounding images and data that Dawn collected from Vesta and Ceres are critical to understanding the history and evolution of our solar system,” Zurbuchen added.

 Dawn can no longer keep its antennas trained on Earth to communicate with mission control or turn its solar panels to the Sun to recharge.

Currently, it’s in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, where it will remain for decades, NASA said.

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Dawn missed scheduled communications sessions with NASA’s Deep Space Network on October 31 and November 1. Flcikr

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.

In 2011, Dawn became the first to orbit a body in the region between Mars and Jupiter when the spacecraft arrived at Vesta, the second largest world in the main asteroid belt.

In 2015, Dawn became the first to visit a dwarf planet and go into orbit around two destinations beyond Earth.

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It went into orbit around Ceres, a dwarf planet that is also the largest world in the asteroid belt.

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

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NASA Asks American Aerospace Companies to Offer Detailed Ideas for Future Lunar Lander

NASA called the request for input a "major step" forward for its new moon mission, dubbed Artemis

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FILE - NASA's Space Launch System mobile launcher rolls on a crawler-transporter for months of testing before the launch of Artemis 1 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, June 27, 2019. VOA

U.S. space agency NASA on Monday asked American aerospace companies to offer detailed ideas for vehicles that could bring two astronauts to the moon by 2024, an American objective that was reconfirmed on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

NASA called the request for input a “major step” forward for its new moon mission, dubbed Artemis — who in Greek mythology was Apollo’s twin sister.

The space agency published documents explaining in detail what it is looking for in a lunar lander that will bring the two astronauts, one a woman, to the moon’s south pole, where they will stay for six-and-a-half days.

In May, 11 companies including sector mainstays Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman were picked to lead feasibility studies and develop prototypes by November. Also on the list were newcomers such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

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FILE – Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first men to land on the moon, plant the U.S. flag on the lunar surface, July 20, 1969. VOA

That same month, Blue Origin unveiled its lander project, Blue Moon.

Now, NASA has provided dozens of pages of specifications that must be met in terms of onboard electronics, communications, and spacesuits.

Any company can reply, not just the 11 shortlisted earlier in the year.

“On the heels of the 50th Anniversary of #Apollo11, we’ve just issued a draft solicitation asking US companies to help us develop the 21st century human landing system that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024,” NASA chief Jim Bridenstine tweeted.

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Behind schedule

After receiving the responses, NASA is expected to make a decision in a matter of months as to which company will build the lander and how.

It will be the equivalent of the lunar module that took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon in 1969.

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U.S. space agency NASA on Monday asked American aerospace companies to offer detailed ideas for vehicles that could bring two astronauts to the moon by 2024. Pixabay

One important difference will be that the lander will berth at a mini moon-orbiting space station, called Gateway, as a kind of port between Earth and the moon. That will allow for the lander to be reused and refueled.

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For now, the Artemis mission is behind schedule, mainly due to delays in the construction of the huge, single-use Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which is primarily being made by Boeing. (VOA)