CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA has lost a second spacecraft this week, ending a fruitful mission in the asteroid belt.
Running low on fuel for some time, the Dawn spacecraft this week stopped communicating with flight controllers. Its prolonged silence prompted NASA to declare it dead Thursday, two days after delivering eulogies to the planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope. The 9 ½-year-old Kepler also ran out of fuel, needed for pointing the spacecraft.
Propelled by three ion engines, the 11-year-old Dawn was the first spacecraft to orbit an object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and also the first to orbit two places beyond Earth. After circling the asteroid Vesta, Dawn went into orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres. NASA says Dawn should remain in orbit around Ceres for decades.