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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was a mission to study the two most massive bodies in the asteroid belt (between Jupiter and Mars) — VESTA and CERES. It was launched in 2007 and ended its journey on November 1, 2018.
Ceres is a dwarf planet like PLUTO, which was supposed to be a planet at a time. Ceres is the only dwarf planet in the INNER SOLAR SYSTEM.
Vesta is a rocky asteroid.
When Dawn visited Vesta and Ceres, it made us realize that these both evolved very differently from each other and faced a number of processes in their evolution.
Dawn orbited (and explored) Vesta in 2011-2012 and it is in orbit around Ceres since March of 2015.
Dawn delved into the unknown worlds and increased our knowledge of the development of the two bodies.
It is the first mission to orbit an object in the main asteroid belt, the first to visit a dwarf planet, and the first to orbit two deep-space destinations.
MAJOR DISCOVERIES BY DAWN
Dawn orbited Vesta for more than an year and found unexpected carbon rich material on its surface which scientists hadn’t observed before.
When it started orbiting Dwarf Ceres, it found something more unexpected — An ocean world of Water and Ammonia.
Dawn even found some organic matter on the surface of Ceres.
On November 1, 2018, Dawn ended its mission and will remain around Ceres for some further decades. Actually, the spacecraft has gone silent.
The reason for the end of this historic mission is that Dawn has ran out of HYDRAZINE, the fuel of Dawn. So, Dawn can no longer turn its solar panels to be recharged by the Sun.
“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.”
“The fact that my car’s license plate frame proclaims, ‘My other vehicle is in the main asteroid belt,’ shows how much pride I take in Dawn,”
— said Mission Director and Chief Engineer Marc Rayman at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
“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.”
“In many ways, Dawn’s legacy is just beginning,”
— said Principal Investigator Carol Raymond at JPL.
“Dawn’s data sets will be deeply mined by scientists working on how planets grow and differentiate, and when and where life could have formed in our solar system. Ceres and Vesta are important to the study of distant planetary systems, too, as they provide a glimpse of the conditions that may exist around young stars.”
Dawn will remain in orbit for at least 20 years, and engineers have more than 99 percent confidence the orbit will last for at least 50 years.
- NASA. NASA’s Dawn Mission to Asteroid Belt Comes to End. November 01, 2018. https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-dawn-mission-to-asteroid-belt-comes-to-end (accessed November 04, 2018).
- NASA. Dawn Mission | Mission. https://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/ (accessed November 04, 2018).
About the Author
Sorout is currently a last third year high school student, living in India. His main fascination lies in Physics mainly in the field of general theory of relativity and topics related to it like Big Bang, Black Holes and Evolution of Universe. He likes to make out the meaning of what he see in this universe. He loves to read books by Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson and other authors (and Physicists). He is an atheist and believes that Physics completely rejects the idea of a god. He likes to play cricket also and he wants to continue down the route of research in Theoretical Astrophysics.