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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.

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

AFP / AFPNASA spacecraft approaches dwarf planet Ceres

“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.”

– “Astounding images” –

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Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the NASA science mission directorate in Washington, hailed Dawn’s “vital science” and “incredible technical achievements.”

Dawn became the only spacecraft ever to orbit a cosmic body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter in 2011 when it began circling the asteroid Vesta.

Then it moved on to the dwarf planet Ceres in 2015, becoming the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet and the only spacecraft to orbit one, NASA said.

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The unmanned spacecraft has traveled 4.3 billion miles (6.9 billion kilometers) since launching in 2007.

It is expected to remain in orbit around Ceres for decades, but will no longer be able to communicate with Earth.

Zurbuchen said the scientific learning from Dawn’s mission will go on.

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“The astounding images and data that Dawn collected from Vesta and Ceres are critical to understanding the history and evolution of our solar system,” he said.

Dawn’s demise is the latest in a series of spacecraft troubles for NASA.

The Kepler space telescope ran out of fuel earlier this week, as expected, ending its nine and a half year mission of hunting for planets outside our solar system.

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NASA’s Opportunity rover is stalled on the surface of Mars following a major dust storm that struck in late May and June.

The Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory experienced technical problems last month that have since been fully repaired.


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Trump encourages China to take advantage of Jay Powell and Fed: They ‘don’t have a clue’

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President Donald Trump launched a new attack against his own Federal Reserve chairman in a pair of Monday morning tweets.

The president has been publicly pressuring Fed chairman Jerome Powell to lower interest rates in hopes of staving off a recession, but the Trump appointee has so far resisted his calls.

"Producer prices in China shrank most in 3 years due to China’s big devaluation of their currency, coupled with monetary stimulus," Trump tweeted. "Federal Reserve not watching? Will Fed ever get into the game? Dollar strongest EVER! Really bad for exports. No Inflation...Highest Interest Rates..."

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Internet pummels Trump for frantic demand to investigate Obama instead: ‘This is not the tweet of an innocent man’

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President Donald Trump jealously raged against Barack Obama's post-presidency business deals, which includes a production agreement with Netflix -- and other social media users ridiculed his apparent envy.

Trump questioned that deal and others in a pair of tweets complaining about an impeachment inquiry launched against him last week by the House Judiciary Committee, and he suggested Congress look at Obama's business since he left the White House.

....work that way. I have a better idea. Look at the Obama Book Deal, or the ridiculous Netflix deal. Then look at all the deals made by the Dems in Congress, the “Congressional Slush Fund,” and lastly the IG Reports. Take a look at them. Those investigations would be over FAST!

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Is the Trump administration squelching a whistleblower — and a major scandal?

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America's system of government has always worked on the honor system. With so few Senate-confirmed Cabinet and federal agency heads, and so many “acting” officials working in the Trump administration, people who are constantly forced to audition for permanent positions are now under tremendous pressure to protect a president hellbent on breaking every norm of good governance. Now a new possible political scandal could be brewing in the Trump administration that tests the loyalty of these “acting” officials — pitting their allegiance to the nation against their desire to impress their boss.

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