After a Voyage of More than 3 Billion Miles, NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft is Ready to Begin Exploring Pluto

NASA-New-Horizon

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft recently began its long-awaited, historic encounter with Pluto. The spacecraft is entering the first of several approach phases that culminate July 14 with the first close-up flyby of the dwarf planet, 4.67 billion miles (7.5 billion kilometers) from Earth.

“We’ve completed the longest journey any spacecraft has flown from Earth to reach its primary target, and we are ready to begin exploring.”

— Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado

“NASA first mission to distant Pluto will also be humankind’s first close up view of this cold, unexplored world in our solar system,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington. “The New Horizons team worked very hard to prepare for this first phase, and they did it flawlessly.”

The fastest spacecraft when it was launched, New Horizons lifted off in January 2006. It awoke from its final hibernation period last month after a voyage of more than 3 billion miles, and will soon pass close to Pluto, inside the orbits of its five known moons.

“NASA first mission to distant Pluto will also be humankind’s first close up view of this cold, unexplored world in our solar system. The New Horizons team worked very hard to prepare for this first phase, and they did it flawlessly.”

— Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division

In preparation for the close encounter, the mission’s science, engineering and spacecraft operations teams configured the piano-sized probe for distant observations of the Pluto system that start Sunday, Jan. 25 with a long-range photo shoot.

Artist’s concept of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft as it passes Pluto and Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, in July 2015.

Artist’s concept of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft as it passes Pluto and Pluto’s largest moon, Charon.

The images captured by New Horizons’ telescopic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) will give mission scientists a continually improving look at the dynamics of Pluto’s moons. The images also will play a critical role in navigating the spacecraft as it covers the remaining 135 million miles (220 million kilometers) to Pluto.

“We’ve completed the longest journey any spacecraft has flown from Earth to reach its primary target, and we are ready to begin exploring,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

LORRI will take hundreds of pictures of Pluto over the next few months to refine current estimates of the distance between the spacecraft and the dwarf planet. Though the Pluto system will resemble little more than bright dots in the camera’s view until May, mission navigators will use the data to design course-correction maneuvers to aim the spacecraft toward its target point this summer. The first such maneuver could occur as early as March…(read more)

SciTechDaily


3 Comments on “After a Voyage of More than 3 Billion Miles, NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft is Ready to Begin Exploring Pluto”

  1. boteotu says:

    Reblogged this on Blogger at the Edge of the Universe. and commented:
    Nice!

  2. thetruthisstrangerthanfiction says:

    Poor Pluto… finally gets a turn being explored by man, but has to do so without even being regarded as a “planet” anymore…


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