International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

‘NASA’s historic Dawn mission to asteroid belt comes to end’Priority 1


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Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Dawn Mission

Mains level: National & International Space missions and their objectives


News

Context

  1. NASA’s pioneering Dawn spacecraft which orbited the two largest objects in the asteroid belt has run out of fuel, ending a historic 11-year mission
  2. It had unraveled many mysteries of our solar system.

Dawn Mission

  1. The Dawn mission was launched in 2007 to study the protoplanet Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres.
  2. It missed scheduled communications sessions with NASA’s Deep Space Network.
  3. Mission managers concluded that the spacecraft finally ran out of hydrazine, the fuel that enables the spacecraft to control its pointing.
  4. The astounding images and data that Dawn collected from Vesta and Ceres are critical to understanding the history and evolution of our solar system.
  5. Dawn can no longer keep its antennae trained on Earth to communicate with mission control or turn its solar panels to the Sun to recharge, according to the US space agency.

Records set by the mission

  1. In 2011, when Dawn arrived at Vesta, the second largest world in the main asteroid belt, the spacecraft became the first to orbit a body in the region between Mars and Jupiter.
  2. In 2015, when Dawn went into orbit around Ceres, a dwarf planet that is also the largest world in the asteroid belt, the mission became the first to visit a dwarf planet and go into orbit around two destinations beyond Earth, it said.
  3. Dawn also reinforced the idea that dwarf planets could have hosted oceans over a significant part of their history and potentially still do.
  4. Dawn will remain in orbit for at least 20 years, and engineers have more than 99% confidence the orbit will last for at least 50 years

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