What Happens When A Spacecraft Dies?

November 17, 2018
via @NASA

Two spacecrafts born in 2007 and 2009 died recently. Wait, how can a spacecraft die? Well, when scientists send a spacecraft into space, that spacecraft is supposed to carry out certain missions. The Dawn spacecraft was part of a mission to research the two most massive bodies in the asteroid belt, Vesta and Ceres, and the Kepler telescope was a satelite focused on finding exoplanets. But spacecrafts often undergo wear and tear, and when they can no longer perform necessary tasks, they end up going into silent mode as they navigate through space.

via NASA

Both Dawn and Kepler are solar-powered and control movement using hydrazine thrusters, but both have run out of fuel and can no longer move around enough to do their jobs. Unable to gather enough power to communicate with the team on Earth, both of these spacecrafts went silent earlier this month, ending expeditions that were more than a decade old.

So what happens once these spacecrafts die? Well, they often become part of what is known as space garbage. Read more about that here.


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