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NASA’s Space Probe ‘Dawn’ To Return Due To Lack of Key Fuel

It has continued to gather high-resolution images, gamma ray and neutron spectra, infrared spectra and gravity data at Ceres.

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L'Ralph needs to have many capabilities in a small, light body structure to keep the spacecraft efficient and the mission productive.Flickr
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After 11 years of gathering breathtaking imagery, and performing unprecedented feats of spacecraft engineering, Dawn — NASA’s space probe for the asteroid belt — is drawing to a close due to lack of a key fuel, the US space agency said.

Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in September 2007, Dawn was majorly tasked to study two of the three known protoplanets of the asteroid belt Vesta and Ceres, which when combined, make up 45 per cent of the mass of the main asteroid belt.

The spacecraft is likely to run out of a key fuel knwon as hydrazine — which keeps it oriented and in communication with Earth — between September and October.

When that happens, Dawn will lose its ability to communicate with Earth, but will remain in a silent orbit around Ceres for decades, NASA said in a statement late on Thursday.

“Not only did this spacecraft unlock scientific secrets at these two small but significant worlds, it was also the first spacecraft to visit and orbit bodies at two extraterrestrial destinations during its mission,” said Lori Glaze, acting director of the Planetary Science Division at Headquarters in Washington.

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Dawn will lose its ability to communicate with Earth, but will remain in a silent orbit around Ceres for decades. (IANS)

 

From 2011 to 2012, the spacecraft swept over Vesta, capturing images of craters, canyons and even mountains of this planet-like world.

Then in 2015, Dawn’s cameras spotted a cryovolcano and mysterious bright spots on Ceres, which scientists later found might be salt deposits produced by the exposure of briny liquid from Ceres’ interior.

“Dawn has shown us alien worlds that, for two centuries, were just pinpoints of light amidst the stars. And it has produced these richly detailed, intimate portraits and revealed exotic, mysterious landscapes unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s mission director and chief engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in California.

It has continued to gather high-resolution images, gamma ray and neutron spectra, infrared spectra and gravity data at Ceres.

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This colorful composite image from NASA’s Dawn mission shows the flow of material inside and outside a crater called Aelia on the giant asteroid Vesta. Flickr

 

Nearly once a day, Dawn will swoop over Ceres about 22 miles (35 kilometers) from its surface — only about three times the altitude of a passenger jet — gathering valuable data until it expends the last of the hydrazine that feeds thrusters controlling its orientation.

Also Read: NASA Rocket Launch Tests Supersonic Parachute for Mars Rover Landings

Engineers have designed Dawn’s final orbit, around Ceres, which has no atmosphere, to ensure it will not crash for at least 20 years — and likely decades longer, NASA said.

According to Rayman, Dawn’s is “an inert, celestial monument to human creativity and ingenuity.”(IANS)

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Google Doodle Celebrates First Message of Humanity into Space

Astronomer and astrophysicist Frank Drake from Cornell University wrote the message with the help from American astronomer Carl Sagan, among others

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Google Doodle celebrates humanity's first message into space. (VOA)

In 1974, scientists sent humankind’s first, three-minute long interstellar radio message – the Arecibo Message – and 44 years later, Google on Friday celebrated the feat with a Doodle.

The Arecibo message is a 1974 interstellar radio message carrying basic information about humanity and Earth sent to globular star “cluster M13” 25,000 light years away, with a hope that extraterrestrial intelligence might receive and decipher it.

The message was sent from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

It had exactly 1,679 binary digits (210 bytes) which, if arranged in a specific way, can explain basic information about humanity and earth to extraterrestrial beings.

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Representational Image of ‘Doodle for Google’. Flickr

The message was broadcast into space a single time via frequency modulated radio waves.

Astronomer and astrophysicist Frank Drake from Cornell University wrote the message with the help from American astronomer Carl Sagan, among others.

Also Read- Social Circles Pose More Risks Online Than Strangers: Microsoft Study

“It was a strictly symbolic event, to show that we could do it,” Cornell University professor Donald Campbell was quoted as saying in an Independent report.

Since it will take nearly 25,000 years for the message to reach its destination — and an additional 25,000 years for a reply, if any, the Arecibo message is viewed as the first demonstration of human technological achievement. (IANS)