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Waspie_Dwarf

Scientists plan for New Horizons second act

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Waspie_Dwarf

Scientists plan for New Horizons probe’s second act

Scientists are about to decide where to send NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft next, and it is down to two candidates at the frozen frontier of the solar system to become the most distant object ever visited by a human-built space probe.

New Horizons’ flyby of Pluto was the mission’s main act, but the plutonium-powered explorer is on an irreversible high-speed course barreling outward from the planets. Scientists will decide later this month to steer the spacecraft on a trajectory toward one of two newly-discovered mini-worlds in the Kuiper Belt, a ring of icy objects thought to be leftovers from the solar system’s creation.

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Merc14

Hopefully they get funding to extend the mission past 2016. Given the wealth of information received so far from Pluto and the fact that the craft is already out there, is 100% healthy and has a nice bag of gas I'd say the chances are very good that they will pump a little more money into the program and get some more data on Kuiper belt objects.

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Waspie_Dwarf

NASA’s New Horizons Team Selects Potential Kuiper Belt Flyby Target

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto.

This remote KBO was one of two identified as potential destinations and the one recommended to NASA by the New Horizons team. Although NASA has selected 2014 MU69 as the target, as part of its normal review process the agency will conduct a detailed assessment before officially approving the mission extension to conduct additional science.

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Merc14

NASA's New Horizons Team Selects Potential Kuiper Belt Flyby Target

Great news that the mission will continue. It would've been crazy to not send a perfectly healthy and fueled craft out to another target after the billions of miles traveled but I had my fears..

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Waspie_Dwarf

Great news that the mission will continue. It would've been crazy to not send a perfectly healthy and fueled craft out to another target after the billions of miles traveled but I had my fears..

Don't count your chickens before they hatch. NASA may have chosen the target but the extension is not yet funded. As it says in the NASA article I linked to:

Like all NASA missions that have finished their main objective but seek to do more exploration, the New Horizons team must write a proposal to the agency to fund a KBO mission. That proposal – due in 2016 – will be evaluated by an independent team of experts before NASA can decide about the go-ahead.

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Sundew

Don't count your chickens before they hatch. NASA may have chosen the target but the extension is not yet funded. As it says in the NASA article I linked to:

I guess it's hard for me as a layman to understand the funding aspect of furthering the mission, besides a little computing power and some human monitoring. The spacecraft is built, it's on its way and it's not a moon landing or a rendezvous with the ISS. Doesn't the ship basically just "sleep" until it nears its target? Where is the huge expense generated? Just curious.

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Waspie_Dwarf

Where is the huge expense generated? Just curious.

The scientists and engineers that control and monitor the spacecraft have to be paid.

The craft will need to be monitored using the Deep Space Network (DSM), that expense will need to come from New Horizons budget.

Once the spacecraft makes it's fly-by of 2014 MU69 there will be data collected that will take years to analyse, that has to be paid for.

The cost of running a deep space probe is not negligible and has to come from NASA's limited budget. Moreover the US Congress decides how much of NASA's budget goes into various areas, hence there will be a set budget for deep space robotic exploration.

If a resource (such as the DSM) is being used for New Horizons then it can't be used for something else. This often means a financial juggling act for NASA. If NASA extends the New Horizons mission then it will be at the cost of another mission. This is why all mission extensions have to be approved by an independent body.

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DieChecker

I'm looking forward to any future pictures of 2014MU69.

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BeastieRunner

I hope the journey gets to continue!

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paperdyer

It's a shame that a great subject like this gets such a low number of comments while comments about slower melting ice cream abound. Hopefully a foundation or philanthropist will pony-up the necessary money to keep the project alive.

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Waspie_Dwarf

Hopefully a foundation or philanthropist will pony-up the necessary money to keep the project alive.

That's not really an option. It's not just about money but about resources.

NASA (and maybe ESA) are the only people that can communicate with a space probe at that distance. The Deep Space Network that communicates with New Horizons only has a finite amount of time it can spend with each probe. No amount of money will change that within the amount of time available before the fly by.

Although I warned Merc about counting his chickens, it is highly unlikely that New Horizons won't get the mission extension NASA wants, however this maybe at the cost of an existing but aging mission such as the Opportunity Mars rover or the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

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DieChecker

What would be the expense of building another Deep Space Network communication system?

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Waspie_Dwarf

What would be the expense of building another Deep Space Network communication system?

Hundreds of millions, maybe billions but irrelevant. It couldn't be done in time.

Besides what would be the point? Whilst it is true that time on the DSN is limited, massive over capacity would be a ridiculous waste of money.

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badeskov

Hundreds of millions, maybe billions but irrelevant. It couldn't be done in time.

Besides what would be the point? Whilst it is true that time on the DSN is limited, massive over capacity would be a ridiculous waste of money.

Hi Waspie,

I very (!!) rarely disagree with you, but here I may have a differing opinion. I see ideas and plans for an increased amount of space exploration, so while not applicable to present missions I could easily see the deep space network being augmented to facilitate not only more missions, but also more complex missions where more time was required for each craft/probe.

Just my two worthless cents :-)

Cheers,

Badeskov

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Waspie_Dwarf

I see ideas and plans for an increased amount of space exploration, so while not applicable to present missions I could easily see the deep space network being augmented to facilitate not only more missions, but also more complex missions where more time was required for each craft/probe.

I absolutely agree, the DSN is evolving and expanding all the time, it is a far more capable system now than when first inaugurated. However you have to take into account what paperdryer was suggesting, which was a private individual or a foundation funding New Horizons. My reply to DieChecker was made in the same context. He didn't suggest improving the capacity of the existing DSN but rather building an entirely new and separate one.

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf
typo,
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Sundew

The scientists and engineers that control and monitor the spacecraft have to be paid.

The craft will need to be monitored using the Deep Space Network (DSM), that expense will need to come from New Horizons budget.

Once the spacecraft makes it's fly-by of 2014 MU69 there will be data collected that will take years to analyse, that has to be paid for.

The cost of running a deep space probe is not negligible and has to come from NASA's limited budget. Moreover the US Congress decides how much of NASA's budget goes into various areas, hence there will be a set budget for deep space robotic exploration.

If a resource (such as the DSM) is being used for New Horizons then it can't be used for something else. This often means a financial juggling act for NASA. If NASA extends the New Horizons mission then it will be at the cost of another mission. This is why all mission extensions have to be approved by an independent body.

That clears that up, still at the expense of building and launching the craft itself are behind them, that's not cheap either.

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