While people around the world celebrated the Halloween holiday, another NASA aerospace agency spacecraft quietly “breathed its last”. This is about the probe Dawn (“Breaking Dawn”). He studied the two largest objects in the asteroid belt of the solar system. He missed the last two communications checks on October 31 and November 1. Not receiving signals from the device, NASA engineers concluded that the time allotted to the probe had come to an end. He, like Kepler, is completely out of fuel. Thus, another NASA space mission has come to its official conclusion.
The people involved in this project were well aware that sooner or later this day will come. When in June of this year, the device approached the dwarf planet Ceres as close as possible, it already had fuel for only a few months of work.
“The fact that“ my other vehicle is in the asteroid belt ”is written on my license plate says a lot about how proud I was of working on the Dawn probe project,” commented Mark Reyman in a NASA press release. Dawn Mission Chief Engineer.
“The tasks we assigned to the probe were outstanding. But he coped with all. It’s hard to part with this amazing spacecraft, but the time has come. ”
In August, Reyman wrote a detailed and sentimental story about what would happen to a probe when its time was up. When the device cannot hold a given position in space, its computer will launch a series of checks, trying to stabilize the probe and continue the mission, but this will not work, because by this time there was not even fuel vapor left in the apparatus’s tanks to power its engines.
“The agony of Dawn will be fast – it will last only a few hours until the end of the charge in its batteries. Then the device will become completely silent and get lost in the vastness of space. After some time, his solar panels will turn back to the light. The device may even come to life. But the rotation set after the shutdown of all systems will lead to the fact that this cycle will repeat infinitely, ”then Reiman wrote.
The probe is still in orbit of the dwarf planet Ceres. But without fuel, he cannot turn to the Sun in such a way that his solar panels receive enough light to charge the battery, allowing him to send the last “farewell message” to Earth. According to the mission, the device will remain in orbit of the dwarf planet for at least the next 20 years.
For NASA, this week was really hard. As mentioned above, the legendary space telescope “Kepler”, which was engaged in searching for exoplanets, completed its work earlier. He, too, ran out of fuel, but the mission’s staff managed to prolong it significantly, occasionally turning off the machine to save energy.
Dawn’s probe is two years older than Kepler. The spacecraft was launched into space in 2007 to study the dwarf planets of Vesta and Ceres, the two largest objects in the asteroid belt, located between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars. It contains many different objects remaining from the very “dawn” of our solar system (hence the name of the device).
Dawn’s probe operation in figures for September of this year: 51,385 hours of operation of ion engines; more than 167 GB of collected scientific data; 3000 revolutions around Vesta and Ceres; 95,000 photos; 4.3 billion miles of raid since launch; located 367 million miles from Earth
Dawn was the first space probe to be able to go directly to the orbit of two objects located in such a place remote from Earth. During the mission, scientists learned that Vesta and Ceres are radically different from each other. Vesta has an iron core, and the surface is covered with craters. In addition, there is a large mountain on it, twice the size of Earth’s Everest.
Ceres also has highlands, which, according to researchers, used to be an icy volcano. Instead of magma, he threw salt water and mud. Using the probe, scientists found that Vesta’s structure consists of stone and metal, and Ceres, in turn, is a huge boulder of stone and ice, dotted with bright spots indicating the presence of salts or carbonates. Organic material was even found on its surface.
The difference in the structure of the two objects helped scientists better understand the dynamics of the early solar system. Vesta was more like the inner planets (and, very likely, appeared not far from its current location). In the case of Ceres, the object itself, or at least the icy and volatile materials on its surface, had to appear farther from the Sun in order to survive the solar radiation. Scientists believe that Ceres after some time came closer to the Sun, taking its place in the asteroid field.
Despite the fact that the Dawn probe has completed its mission, the analysis of the data collected for its 11-year work will require a lot of time from scientists to complete.
“In many ways, the legacy of Dawn is just beginning,” – said the curator of the mission, Carol Raymond.
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