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Sleepy space probe New Horizons awakens for close-up with Pluto

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posted on Dec, 8 2014 @ 09:15 AM
Sleepy space probe New Horizons awakens for close-up with Pluto

Looks like we will get to learn something new about the dwarf planet Pluto and its moons. This is the first craft we've sent to specifically look at Pluto, so hopefully we can learn some new things here. Like how distant objects from the sun behave in our Solar System.

It's the "beginning of the mission's primary objective: the exploration of Pluto and its many moons in 2015," said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado, in a NASA news release.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft was launched on January 19, 2006. It's down to the final 162 million miles of its journey and will arrive July 14, 2015. New Horizons has had 18 hibernation periods totaling 1,873 days to save wear and tear on its components. This was its last nap.

Mission operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, say a preprogrammed command ordered the spacecraft to switch from hibernation to "active" at 9:53 p.m. (EST) December 6.

"This is a big deal. It means the start of our pre-encounter operations," said Glen Fountain, New Horizons project manager at APL.

I'm excited to say the least.

New Horizons is packed with cameras and other instruments, and it should start sending back glimpses of Pluto on January 15. By mid-May, we should get "better than Hubble" photos. Until now, the best image we've had of Pluto is a pixilated photo from the Hubble Space Telescope. We'll also see Pluto's five moons: Charon, Nix, Hydra, Kerberos and Styx.

First close up view of Pluto and its moons. I wonder what they will find?

New Horizons was launched before the big debate started over whether it's a planet. For the scientists on the New Horizons team, Pluto is very much a planet -- just a new kind of planet.

"New Horizons is on a journey to a new class of planets we've never seen, in a place we've never been before," says New Horizons Project Scientist Hal Weaver of APL. "For decades, we thought Pluto was this odd little body on the planetary outskirts; now we know it's really a gateway to an entire region of new worlds in the Kuiper Belt, and New Horizons is going to provide the first close-up look at them."

Planet or not, this is a BIG opportunity to learn about the deeper recesses of our Solar System.

posted on Dec, 8 2014 @ 10:34 AM
a reply to: Krazysh0t

Prospecting for new lands, are they now.

I saw the news some days ago. I cannot wait to see what New Horizon has to show to us.

posted on Dec, 8 2014 @ 10:39 AM
a reply to: swanne

Me too. The Kuiper Belt is a one of the many things in the Solar System that our information on is surely lacking. I'd bet that there are more dwarf planets the size of Pluto out there.

posted on Dec, 8 2014 @ 11:09 PM
Maybe one day we can have a telescope, or a constellation of telescopes, at around pluto orbit or beyond. But at least we will have a decent camera out there now.

Thinking of this mission to Pluto reminds me of this thread See if you can make it to Pluto! Very eye opening to me to experience this in simulation, and now knowing this craft is at the last leg of it makes it a relevant simulation indeed.

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