A NASA spacecraft that launched eleven years ago and tested two of the largest objects in the asteroid belt has completed its mission after the fuel was exhausted.
Scientists have known for about a month that Dawn had almost zero hydrazine left, a fuel that kept the spacecraft's antennae aligned with the earth and helped direct the sun's solar panels to recharge.
The spacecraft stopped communicating with the air traffic controllers this week and told NASA to declare it dead on Thursday.
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A NASA spacecraft called Dawn, which investigated two of the largest objects in the asteroid belt, has completed its 11-year mission after the fuel was used up. Image: This image shows the spaceship orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres
It's two days after the Kepler Space Telescope, which was chasing planets outside our solar system for nine and a half years, and the spacecraft fuel was in short supply.
Both worked longer than expected and their demise had been expected.
Driven by three ion engines, 11-year-old Dawn was the first spaceship orbiting an object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and also the first to orbit two locations off-planet.
After circling the asteroid Vesta, Dawn went into orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres – the largest object in the asteroid belt, followed by Vesta.
Launched in 2007 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the 20-meter-wide and 1.8-meter-high spacecraft spent more than a decade exploring space
WHAT IS DAWN WHAT HAPPENS, WHAT WILL HAPPEN NOW?
Dawn has covered 4.3 billion miles (6.9 billion kilometers) since launching in 2007.
It is expected to remain in orbit around Ceres for decades, but unable to communicate with Earth.
The scientific learning of Dawn's mission continues.
The data that returned Dawn to Earth enabled scientists to compare two planetary worlds that developed in very different ways.
Among other things, Dawn showed how important the site was to the way objects formed and developed in the early solar system.
Dawn also reinforced the idea that dwarf planets could, and probably will, host oceans for much of their history.
According to NASA, twilight should remain in orbit around Ceres for decades.
Mission Director and Chief Engineer Marc Rayman insisted he was not sad about the news.
Rather, he said in an e-mail, "I'm excited, it was so amazingly exciting and productive.
"Dawn was a spectacular success in every way. It brought humanity to a truly amazing space adventure with amazing discoveries.
"The demands we placed on Dawn were enormous, but they met the challenge each time. It's hard to say goodbye to this amazing spaceship, but it's time. "
The "amazing" images Dawn has collected shed light on the history and evolution of our solar system, said NASA science mission chief Thomas Zurbuchen.
"For me, this is a fitting end to an extraordinary extraterrestrial expedition," said Rayman.
That week, the spaceship stopped communicating with the air traffic controllers and called on NASA to declare it dead on Thursday. In the picture: The concept of this artist shows the space probe Dawn, which has covered 4.3 billion kilometers since its launch in 2007
This photograph of Ceres and the bright regions of the Occator Crater was one of the last shots NASA spacecraft Dawn had transmitted before completing her eleven-year mission