Published: Mon, November 05, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

NASA Probe Captures Clear Shot Of Asteroid Bennu

NASA Probe Captures Clear Shot Of Asteroid Bennu

The U.S. space agency NASA declared on Thursday that its spacecraft Dawn has run out of fuel and gone silent, marking the end of its historic mission to study the two most massive bodies in the asteroid belt. Researchers have known for about a month that Dawn was basically out of hydrazine, the fuel that kept the rocket's antennae situated toward Earth and helped turn the solar panels to the Sun to energize.

"The goals we laid at Dawn, was incredible, but every time he did, says Rayman".

This is the second time that NASA bade farewell to a spacecraft this week.

After visiting Vesta, Dawn continued its travels and in March 2015 arrived at and went into a three-year orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, which is also the largest object in the asteroid belt.

By the time the spacecraft ran out of fuel it had around 4.3 billion miles under its belt.

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Scientists will continue to follow up on Dawn's findings.

"The astounding images and data that Dawn collected from Vesta and Ceres are critical to understanding the history and evolution of our solar system", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. As the first spaceship to visit a dwarf planet, Dawn has also proved vital in revealing that these dinky worlds have the potential to support oceans.

Dawn produced a complete map of the surface of Ceres and discovered ice volcanoes. "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", Raymond said. "The team used a super-resolution algorithm to combine the eight images and produce a higher resolution view of the asteroid". In addition to returning a carbon-rich asteroid sample and studying Bennu's surface and composition, NASA's OSIRIS-REx will also look into how sunlight affects its orbit and document its regolith, the layer of material covering its surface. Dawn's orbital path is stable enough to 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.

The Dawn mission was managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, with spacecraft components contributed by European partners from Italy, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. JPL is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are worldwide partners on the mission team.

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