NASA'S Dawn Spacecraft to Stay at Dwaf Planet Ceres
NASA's plight to find signs of life in the universe and in understanding the surroundings off-Earth is nonstop. It's Dawn spacecraft is set to stay at the Dwarf Planet Ceres after scientists' proposal to visit another object at the asteroid belt was rejected.
NASA's Dawn spacecraft completed its mission on the dwarf planet Ceres this June 30, but since there's remaining fuel aboard the spacecraft, scientists proposed to extend its mission and visit another celestial body only to be rejected.
The $467 million Dawn mission, launch in 2007 is the first spacecraft of NASA, to visit a dwarf planet. Dawn visited Vesta, another dwarf planet before proceeding to Ceres. It's the first spacecraft to orbit two different cosmic bodies beyond Earth and the moon, according to a report. "Dawn's goal is to characterize the conditions and processes of its earliest history by investigating in detail two of the largest protoplanets remaining intact since their formation," a NASA official said on the mission website.
The two dwarf planets visited by Dawn were located in the asteroid belt, the region between Mars and Jupiter. With the diversity of the visited celestial bodies, Dawn provides information about the evolution of the Solar System.
Reports say that scientists suggested a flyby at asteroid 145 Adeona, which is a 150-kilometer (93-mile) wide asteroid. If the additional mission was approved, Dawn might have been on its way to the asteroid today. But NASA's Planetary Mission Senior Review Panel decided that Dawn should continue its mission and to remain in Ceres instead.
"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 a statement.
Late last month, sodium carbonate, a type of mineral salt found on Earth was also found on Ceres.
Ceres is the largest known object in the asteroid belt. Dawn will have to stay in its orbit and study more of its composition and evolution as NASA experts deem it more productive for Dawn to stay at Ceres than an unplanned flyby to another mysterious asteroid.