NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft To Remain At Ceres

Posted: Jul 2 2016, 1:09am CDT | by , Updated: Jul 2 2016, 6:00pm CDT, in | Latest Science News

NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft to Remain at Ceres
Credit: NASA

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NASA's announces Dawn spacecraft will not be sent to another object in the asteroid belt.

It’s official! NASA’s Dawn spacecraft won't leave Ceres and continue exploring dynamics of the dwarf planet for the next two years.

The mission extension was based on the 2016 Planetary Mission Senior Review Panel report where a senior review panel has decided that the probe will not be sent to another obejct in the asteroid belt after it finishes the Ceres mission.

Dawn probe has been orbiting Ceres since March 2015 and studying its geological properties and features including mysterious bright spots scattered on its surface over this time. This makes it the first and only spacecraft to orbit two destinations beyond Earth and the only to orbit the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Dawn was originally launched in September 2007 with the intension of studying two new worlds in outer space, Vesta and Ceres. In 2011, the spacecraft entered the orbit of protoplanet Vesta and stayed there for more than one year before leaving for Ceres..

The Dawn mission has taken several important observations over the course of this 15-month long mission. The primary mission at Ceres was scheduled to end this summer and it was expected that Dawn will leave the dwarf planet and venture to another asteroid, Adeona, to explore the new object. NASA however has rejected the idea and Dawn will continue to investigate Ceres and its bright spots through fiscal years 2017 and 2018.

“The long-term monitoring of Ceres, particularly as it gets closer to perihelion – the part of its orbit with the shortest distance to the Sun – has the potential to provide more significant science discoveries than a flyby of Adeona.” Jim Green, NASA’s director of Planetary Science said in astatement.

Dawn is not the only mission to receive extension this week. A total of nine missions have been extended including New Horizons that will continue its operation and fly onward to another deeper object in Kuiper Belt beyond Pluto.

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