- NASA’s pioneering Dawn spacecraft in the asteroid belt has run out of fuel, ending its historic 11-year mission that unravelled many mysteries of our solar system.
- About Dawn Spacecraft:
- The $467million Dawn mission was launched in 2007 to study the protoplanet Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres.
- Propelled by ion engines, the spacecraft achieved many firsts along the way.
- 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.
- 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.
- Significance of the findings:
- The astounding images and data that Dawn collected from Vesta and Ceres are critical to understanding the history and evolution of our solar system,
- Dawn also reinforced the idea that dwarf planets could have hosted oceans over a significant part of their history.