Published: Mon, November 05, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

NASA Probe Captures Clear Shot Of Asteroid Bennu

NASA Probe Captures Clear Shot Of Asteroid Bennu

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has run out of fuel and dropped out of contact with mission control, the agency said 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", Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The 11-year-old spacecraft has no more energy to point its antennae to Earth to communicate or turn its solar panels toward the sun to recharge. Then in 2015, Dawn moved onto the largest world in the belt: the dwarf planet Ceres. Dawn visited Vesta and Ceres, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit two deep-space destinations. "The demands we made on Dawn were tremendous, but she always faced the challenge".

"The fact that my car's license plate reads "my other vehicle is in the asteroid belt" shows how proud I am of Dawn", said Dawn mission's director and chief engineer Marc Rayman.

This artist's concept summarizes our understanding of how the inside of Ceres could be structured, based on the data returned by the NASA's Dawn mission.

The unmanned rocket has voyage 4.3 billion miles (6.9 billion kilometers) since launched in 2007.

The samples will help the NASA scientists better understand the origins of the Solar System, the forces that shape the paths of asteroids through space and perhaps reveal some important information about the possible resources we could find on asteroids. After retiring Kepler, the space agency announced that Dawn, the asteroid-hopping spacecraft, has gone silent. It's not just large asteroids: these so-called proto-planet represent that era in the history of the Solar system, formed when her worlds. This is why the scientists studying Dawn's data believe that Ceres once hosted an ocean, and there could even be liquid beneath the surface.

The Dawn orbiter has been flying around the dwarf planet Ceres for some time now.

Researchers at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC), said the new photo of the asteroid Bennu is just the first of more exciting observations to come. JPL is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Dawn will remain in orbit for at least 20 years, and engineers have more than 99 per cent confidence the orbit will last for at least 50 years, it said.

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