Space

NASA engineers left Dawn probe for no more than a month of life

Interplanetary probe of Dawn, which is now in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, finished its 11-year mission no later than a month – this time on board the vehicle runs out of fuel for the orientation engines, and he will not be able to hold the solar panels and antenna in the correct position,  reports  NASA.

The Dawn probe was launched into space on September 27, 2007. In 2011, he reached the asteroid Vesta , where he worked until August 2012, after which he went to  Ceres , which he orbits since March 2015. Thanks to the device, scientists have received a lot of new information about the dwarf planet in the last few years. A gravitational map of Ceres was compiled and  detailed photographs of its surface were obtained . In addition, the researchers found Ceres “cold traps” , suitable for holding water ice for a long time, deposits of ice and  ice volcano , as well as traces of organic substances ,unusual mountains , disappeared craters , glaciers and landslides and signs of a possible presence in Ceres of the subsurface ocean. And recently, scientists have received new evidence of Ceres’ geological activity and the existence of seasonal processes on it.

In July 2017, after the completion of the mission’s main mission, it was decided not to send the probe to another asteroid, but to leave it in Ceres orbit for further study. Despite the fact that three of its four gyros that support orientation in space have failed, the device has retained the ability to maneuver and maintain its position by switching to the orientation mode with the help of hydrazine engines.

Previously, the probe operated on a high 385-kilometer orbit, which allowed for a more economical use of the remaining fuel, now it is in an elliptical orbit that allows the probe to approach the surface of a dwarf planet for a distance of up to 35 kilometers and study the composition of the Ceres subsurface layer with neutron and gamma- spectrometer, and also obtain detailed images of the surface.

Since there are conditions on Ceres that are of interest to astrobiologists, NASA decided not to complete the mission by colliding the probe with the Ceres surface, but leaving it permanently in the current working orbit, which it is estimated will not come down at least within the next 20 years. It is projected that Dawn’s work at Ceres will end between mid-September and mid-October, when the probe finally exhausts the hydrazine reserves and it will no longer be able to maintain the orientation of solar cells and communication with the Earth. In this case, if after the loss of communication with the probe engineers for several days can not restore it, then the mission will be considered officially completed.

Earlier we talked about how the Dawn probe data allowed to detect ice in the depths of Vesta and  not find a single satellite from the asteroid.

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