Range Tracking

Dusk For Dawn

From the 1 November 2018 NASA press release:

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has gone silent, ending a historic mission that studied time capsules from the solar system’s earliest chapter.

Dawn missed scheduled communications sessions with NASA’s Deep Space Network on Wednesday, Oct. 31, and Thursday, Nov. 1. After the flight team eliminated other possible causes for the missed communications, mission managers concluded that the spacecraft finally ran out of hydrazine, the fuel that enables the spacecraft to control its pointing. 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.

The Dawn spacecraft launched 11 years ago to visit the two largest objects in the main asteroid belt. Currently, it’s in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, where it will remain for decades.

I was there way back on 27 September 2007 to photograph the early morning launch of the Dawn spacecraft that lifted off aboard a Delta 2 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. What I wrote back then about the mission all lay in the future with the seemingly impossible goal of visiting two of the largest asteroids, Vesta and Ceres, in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It is nice to see that the mission achieved its objectives and more and was a great success. Click to view my launch page for the Dawn mission.

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