NASA’s Dawn Mission Will Come to an End After Almost a Decade

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The Dawn spacecraft is orbiting around the dwarf planet Ceres, and it is about to get closer to the planet than it has ever been. In just a few days the spacecraft will reach its final orbit, and it will be ten times closer to the surface of the planet than it has ever been.

Dawn will be able to come within 35 kilometers of the dwarf planet, which will allow scientists to collect more data about Ceres. The spacecraft has an instrument which is used to detect neutrons as well as gamma rays.

According to the researchers, these measurements will be instrumental. “This will help us to really understand the bulk composition of Ceres — what the body is made of, what it started with, and how the geological process has modified that,” said Carol Raymond, the principal investigator of the Dawn mission.

Getting into the orbit

It was challenging to get into this tight elliptical orbit. That is because highly energetic particles are coming from the Sun and they can push and pull the spacecraft. “It was the question of how low can you go and how long can you last,” added Raymond.

After 50 years the Dawn spacecraft won’t be able to communicate with Earth for too long because it will run out of fuel and the solar panels won’t be able to orient towards the Sun anymore. We do not know what will happen to the spacecraft after these years pass, but researchers believe that it might continue to orbit Ceres. “The expectation is it will just continue without any change,” she says. “And at some point in the future when we go back to Ceres, we may be able to spot it still circling.”

Karen and her husband live on a plot of land in British Columbia. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. They are also currently planning a move to a small cabin they hand built. Karen’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Thus sprung Anna’s interest in backyard gardening, chicken and goat keeping, recycling and self-sufficiency.


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