Wednesday, July 06, 2016

NASA Declines to SEnd Dawn Spacecraft to Another Asteroid

A senior review of NASA’s planetary science missions has concluded the Dawn spacecraft should remain in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres rather than venture to another asteroid as project officials proposed.

NASA announced July 1 the outcome of a review of extended planetary science missions, including the approval of plans to send New Horizons past a distant Kuiper Belt object and the extension of seven other missions at the moon and Mars.

Dawn, which completed its primary mission June 30, had proposed an extended mission where the spacecraft would leave its current orbit around Ceres and travel to another asteroid. Project officials declined to name that asteroid, saying that they would identify it if NASA approved the extended mission.

However, in a mission update posted to the Dawn web site late June 30, only to be removed within minutes, the mission did identify that destination: the asteroid 145 Adeona, a main belt asteroid about 150 kilometers across that Dawn would fly by in May 2019. The NASA statement July 1 about the mission extension confirmed the planned target was Adeona.

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