NASA’s Dawn asteroid mission ends as fuel runs out

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Dawn, a NASA spacecraft that launched 11 years ago and studied two of the largest objects in the asteroid belt, has ended its mission after running out of fuel, officials said Thursday.

Scientists have known for about a month that Dawn was essentially out of hydrazine, the fuel that kept the spacecraft’s antennae oriented toward Earth and helped turn its solar panels to the Sun to recharge.

When the spacecraft missed scheduled communications with NASA’s Deep Space Network on Wednesday and Thursday, the space agency formally declared it dead.

“The fact that my car’s license plate frame proclaims, ‘My other vehicle is in the main asteroid belt,’ shows how much pride I take in Dawn,” said mission director and chief engineer Marc Rayman at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“The demands we put on Dawn were tremendous, but it met the challenge every time. It’s hard to say goodbye to this amazing spaceship, but it’s time.”

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