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Waspie_Dwarf

New Horizons Mission

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Outbound for the Frontier, New Horizons Crosses the Orbit of Mars


April 7 , 2006

New Horizons' trailblazing journey to the solar system's outermost frontier took it past the orbit of Mars today at 6 a.m. EDT (1000 UTC), 78 days after the spacecraft launched.

At the time, because of Mars' position in its orbit, New Horizons was actually closer to Earth than to Mars — just 93.5 million kilometers (58.1 million miles) from home, compared to 299 million kilometers (186 million miles) from the red planet. Speeding away from the Sun at 21 kilometers (about 13 miles) per second, the spacecraft crossed Mars' path some 243 million kilometers (151 million miles) from the Sun — close to the farthest point in Mars' elliptical 687-day orbit.

New Horizons reaches its next planetary milestone on February 28, 2007, when it makes its closest approach to Jupiter. Unlike the distant Mars passing today, the Jupiter encounter will be at close range, allowing New Horizons to make important scientific observations and to test procedures for its Pluto encounter in 2015. Additionally, New Horizons will use Jupiter's powerful gravity to boost its speed and adjust its course toward Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.


user posted image
The green line denotes New Horizons' actual travel distance from
Earth, 260 million kilometers (161.6 million miles) since launch
from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on Jan 19, 2006.


Source: NASA/JHUAPL - New Horizons

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Conspiracy

cant wait to hear what information comes from pluto and its moon charon

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Waspie_Dwarf

cant wait to hear what information comes from pluto and its moon charon

There are also two new moons, recently discovered by Hubble, to look forward to. Alas, it's going to be a long wait. Closest approach to Pluto isn't until 14th July 2015.

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Glacies

There are also two new moons, recently discovered by Hubble, to look forward to. Alas, it's going to be a long wait. Closest approach to Pluto isn't until 14th July 2015.

dang. oh well, good things are worth waiting for. :yes:

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Conspiracy

There are also two new moons, recently discovered by Hubble, to look forward to. Alas, it's going to be a long wait. Closest approach to Pluto isn't until 14th July 2015.

ya i know :P but i dont remember if they got names or not so thats why i didnt bother mentioning em, the names scienctists give em are messed up, like a giant code lol

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Waspie_Dwarf

ya i know :P but i dont remember if they got names or not so thats why i didnt bother mentioning em, the names scienctists give em are messed up, like a giant code lol

Code it is, messed up it isn't.

They are known as S/2005 P1 and S/2005 P2. The S just means that it is a satellite. 2005 is the year of discovery. The P signifies that they are in orbit around Pluto and the 1 and 2 signify that they were the 1st and 2nd satellites discovered around that planet in that year. They will be given proper names later.

As an example of how the code works the first satellite discovered around Saturn next year will have the provisional designation S/2007 S1.

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Waspie_Dwarf
New Horizons in Space: The First 100 Days


April 28 , 2006

April 29, 2006, marks another milestone in New Horizons' historic journey to Pluto - the spacecraft's 100th day of flight.

user posted image

"It's been a good flight so far, and we're working to keep it that way," says New Horizons Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman, of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.

Since launch on from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Jan. 19, it has also been a busy flight. Among many activites, the mission team has conducted three small trajectory correction maneuvers, which exercised the spacecraft's propulsion system and refined New Horizons' path toward Jupiter for a gravity assist and science studies in February 2007; upgraded the software that controls the spacecraft's flight computers; and carried out rigorous tests proving that all seven onboard science instruments survived launch and have their basic functions.

Having passed the orbit of Mars on April 7, the spacecraft continues to zoom toward the outer solar system, moving about the Sun at more than 69,570 miles (111,960 kilometers) per hour.

"On a voyage to Pluto that will take nearly a decade, 100 days might not seem like much," says Alan Stern, mission principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. "But the team has accomplished a lot in that short time, and the mission is going exceptionally well. Now we're working hard to calibrate the scientific payload and prepare the science instruments and spacecraft for our encounter with Jupiter, just 10 months ahead."

The team will begin rehearsing for that trip through the Jupiter system - putting the spacecraft and instruments through the actual paces of the flyby - later this year, after the science payload is fully commissioned this summer.


Source: NASA/JHUAPL - New Horizons - News

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A Summer's Crossing of the Asteroid Belt


June 1, 2006

user posted image
New Horizons has entered the asteroid belt and will be traversing this part of our solar system through August. The schematic view above shows the scale of the asteroid belt compared to the orbits of Earth, Mars and Jupiter, each shown in blue. The sizes of the asteroids in this illustration are vastly exaggerated - the belt is in reality almost entirely open space. The "Trojan" asteroids orbiting ahead and behind Jupiter are a different dynamical class of small bodies in our solar system.
(Click on the image for a larger version.)


May, like April, was a busy month for New Horizons instrument payload commissioning. In particular, our instruments LORRI, PEPSSI, Alice and Ralph all continued their in in-flight checkouts. In addition, the spacecraft itself received a new suite of onboard fault protection autonomy software resolving a number of bug fixes discovered in ground and flight tests. We continue to see software-induced guidance computer resets once or twice per month, but the spacecraft recovers flawlessly from these, without any interruption to plans. The team is working on software that will resolve the bug that causes this; we expect to have that load tested and aboard the spacecraft around Oct. 1.

user posted image
Alice (above the technician in the foreground) and Ralph (below just below Alice and in front of the technician's head) undergo fit checks during the early construction of New Horizons at APL in late 2004. Both instruments completed their primary door openings and first light observations in May.

Highlights of our payload commissioning activities included door openings for PEPSSI (May 3), Alice (May 20) and Ralph (May 29). The Student Dust Counter (SDC) registered each of these events at the precise time of the door openings by the noise they made on the spacecraft. Each of these instruments also saw "first light," i.e., detecting signals from stars (Ralph) or the interplanetary medium (PEPSSI and Alice). From these tests, we appear to have a little higher than spec sensitivity with Ralph's color and panchromatic cameras. Also, Alice's background counts are only about half what we predicted, indicating that the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) induces a significantly lower background than we estimated before launch. This lower background rate will significantly enhance Alice's signal-to-noise ratio on faint spectral features.

From the Alice, Ralph and PEPSSI testing this month we can say that from all of the data surrounding the careful, step-by-step instrument commissioning activities to date, our instrument payload continues to perform as well or better than predicted from ground testing. This is a testament to the exacting engineering that went into their development.


In other news for May, we began to finalize the suite of observations planned for next year during our Jupiter flyby, and we continued to track New Horizons to determine whether a fine course correction will be needed this fall. So far, no course correction appears necessary, but the final verdict won't be in until we have about another 90 to 100 days of tracking.

Planning activities began in May for the annual 60-day checkouts we'll perform each year each year during Cruise 2 ("Glen's Glide") - the coast from Jupiter to Pluto. From 2008 to 2011, these checkouts will occur in the fall. But from 2012 to 2014 our annual checkouts will occur in the summer, because we'll be rehearsing the Pluto encounter aboard the spacecraft and we want the Earth-Sun geometry at rehearsal time to faithfully reproduce what will occur at the actual encounter in summer 2015.

user posted image
In our "water cooler news story" of the month for New Horizons: In early May, we got word from Lockheed-Martin that tourists in the Bahamas found several large pieces of our Atlas V 551 launch vehicle's nose fairing that had washed up on shore. (Photo courtesy of Devon Ravine)

Now let's talk about the significance of our current location: deep in the solar system's asteroid belt. As both the title and the first illustration in this month's blog indicate, we're traversing the main asteroid belt now. This region of the solar system consists of a handful of dwarf planets, like Ceres (itself 1,000 kilometers in diameter), and literally millions of debris bits created by collisions between asteroids. These small bodies range up in size from mountains to objects as large as 100 kilometers across. The asteroid belt also contains innumerable boulders, rocks and dust motes created by the same collisions. There are many good Web sites describing what is known about the asteroid belt. One I hope you'll like can be found at: http://www.solstation.com/stars/asteroid.htm; another good site is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteroid_belt.

The first spacecraft to transit the asteroid belt was NASA's Pioneer 10, which made its epic crossing in 1972 on the way to the historic first encounter of a spacecraft with Jupiter. Later, Pioneer 11, Voyagers 1 and 2, Galileo, Cassini, NEAR and Ulysses all made the same kind of journey to or across the main belt. Now it is our turn. Fortunately, the asteroid belt is so huge that, despite its large population of small bodies, the chance of running into one is almost vanishingly small - far less than one in one billion. That means that if you want to actually come close enough to an asteroid to make detailed studies of it, you have to aim for a specific asteroid.

user posted image
On June 13, New Horizons will pass approximately 104,000 kilometers from a small main belt asteroid called 2002 JF56. This fortuitous encounter is too far away for detailed imagery, but it will allow us to test our moving target tracking capabilities. The positions of 2002 JF56 and New Horizons are illustrated here for June 1.
(Click on the image for a larger version.)


The first such asteroid flyby was made by Galileo in October 1991. Galileo also made a second asteroid encounter in 1993. Other spacecraft, most notably the NEAR (Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous) mission, have also made close main belt asteroid flybys, yielding important geological and geophysical insights into these bodies. Galileo also made the first discovery of an asteroid satellite in its 1991 flyby of asteroid Gaspra -since then, ground-based observers have found dozens of asteroid satellites. In addition to main belt asteroid flybys, NASA's NEAR and the Japanese Hayabusa mission have both made orbital rendezvous and landings on asteroids closer to Earth. And next year, NASA plans to launch the Dawn (http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov) Discovery mission to orbit two of the largest asteroids - Vesta and Ceres. Dawn will arrive in orbit about Vesta in 2012, and will reach Ceres, the largest asteroid, in August 2015, just a month or so after New Horizons encounters Pluto.

A long time ago, we considered the possibility of targeting a close asteroid flyby with New Horizons during our crossing of the main belt. As the mission PI, I rejected this early on for two reasons. First, such an encounter would take about half of our Kuiper Belt fuel to accomplish. Secondly, even for this amount of fuel, the only asteroids we could hope to reach would be tiny - just a few kilometers across. While such an encounter would certainly be scientifically useful, it couldn't be justified for the amount of Kuiper Belt fuel it would cost us. And when all is said and done, our job is to reconnoiter bodies in the Kuiper Belt.

Although we specifically decided not to target any asteroid, after launch we did conduct a thorough search for chance encounters along our trajectory. Just the statistics of such chance encounters indicated that we might expect to pass perhaps 1 million to 3 million kilometers from a small asteroid by chance as we transited the main belt. We found several such opportunities back in February.

But, as it turns out, we got more than what we expected: in early May we also discovered that we'd pass within approximately 104,000 kilometers of the little-known asteroid 2002 JF56 on June 13! This little mountain-sized body (http://smass.mit.edu/2002jf56.html) is only 3 to 5 kilometers across; virtually nothing is known about it - not even its compositional type or its rotational period.

Although we cannot resolve something as small as 2002 JF56 from this distance with Ralph (LORRI, which has higher resolution cannot open its door until late August to guard against accidental Sun pointings), the June 13 "encounter" with 2002 JF56 is still going to be useful to New Horizons.

The primary use of this distant flyby will be to test Ralph's optical navigation and moving target tracking capabilities. We will also get a handle on the asteroid's light curve, composition, phase curve, and perhaps even refine its diameter if all goes as planned. But this event is really a flight test, so we aren't guaranteeing anything but a best effort. If it works, you'll see images that just barely resolve the asteroid into perhaps 1 or 2 pixels and perhaps a spectrum of this chip off some larger body. More importantly, of course, we will gain some valuable experience that will yield benefits at both the Jupiter and Pluto flybys, so we're excited to give this a try.

Stay tuned, we'll report on the results at mid-month on this Web site.

Flight activities for June will center on SWAP instrument testing, Ralph instrument calibrations, and beam mapping observations for our high gain antenna and REX (radio science) instrument. By July 4, we'll be 3 Astronomical Units (AU) from the Sun. Although the sunlight there is still 100 times as strong as it is on the brightest day at Pluto, it'll be about 10 times dimmer than at Earth's orbit. Less than six months into a 114-month journey to Pluto, New Horizons is beginning to reach the cooler thermal conditions it was designed to thrive in!

Well, that's all I have for you for now. So until next time, keep exploring.

-Alan Stern

user posted image
The latest of planetary scientist and space artist Dan Durda's sublime Pluto-system flyby art. (Image courtesy of Dan Durda)


Source: NASA/JHUPL - New Horizons

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Master Sage

I can't wait for that probe to finaly knock pluto off the planet list!

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Waspie_Dwarf

I can't wait for that probe to finaly knock pluto off the planet list!

I sincerely hope that debate is sorted out long before 2015.

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New Horizons Tracks an Asteroid


June 15 , 2006

It's a small object with big news for the New Horizons team: the first spacecraft to Pluto tested its tracking and imaging capabilities this week on asteroid 2002 JF56, a relatively tiny space rock orbiting in the asteroid belt.

user posted image

The two "spots" in this image are a composite of two images of asteroid 2002 JF56 taken on June 11 and June 12, 2006, with the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) component of the New Horizons Ralph imager. In the bottom image, taken when the asteroid was about 3.36 million kilometers (2.1 million miles) away from the spacecraft, 2002 JF56 appears like a dim star. At top, taken at a distance of about 1.34 million kilometers (833,000 miles), the object is more than a factor of six brighter. The best current, estimated diameter of the asteroid is approximately 2.5 kilometers.

The asteroid observation was a chance for the New Horizons team to test the spacecraft's ability to track a rapidly moving object. On June 13 New Horizons came to within about 102,000 kilometers of the small asteroid, when the spacecraft was nearly 368 million kilometers (228 million miles) from the Sun and about 273 million kilometers (170 million miles) from Earth.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute


In photos snapped by the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) component of New Horizons' Ralph imager, from distances ranging from 1.34 to 3.36 million kilometers (about 833,000 to 2.1 million miles), the asteroid (with an estimated diameter of about 2.5 kilometers) appears as a bright, barely resolved pinpoint of light against the background of space. That Ralph "saw" the asteroid demonstrates that it can track and photograph objects moving relative to New Horizons - just as Jupiter and its moons and then, later, Pluto and its moons will be. This capability is critical as New Horizons closes in on Jupiter for a gravity boost toward the Pluto system.

"The asteroid observation was a flight test, a chance for us to test the spacecraft's ability to track a rapidly moving object and to refine our sequencing process," says Gabe Rogers, New Horizons guidance and control engineer from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md. "The objects we will observe this winter in the Jupiter system will appear to be moving across the sky much more slowly than this asteroid, so these observations were an unexpected opportunity to prepare for the even faster tracking rates we'll experience in summer 2015, when the spacecraft zips through the Pluto system at more than 31,000 miles per hour."

Ralph's camera took separate images on June 11, June 12 and June 13. The images had to be compressed (to save on the number of bits that must be sent back), radioed back to Earth through NASA's Deep Space Network of antenna stations, and checked out by mission team members before they could be evaluated.

About an hour before closest approach to the asteroid - which occurred at 4:05 UTC on June 13, at distance of 101,867 kilometers - Ralph began scanning it to obtain color images and infrared spectra. Those data must also be compressed before they're sent back to Earth next week.

"Ralph has performed flawlessly since the launch of New Horizons and these asteroid observations are giving us more insight into the ultimate sensitivity and capability of the instrument," says Ralph Instrument Scientist Dennis Reuter, of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "They are allowing us to use Ralph to view and track a single fast-moving object as it changes from a dim speck of light in a bright star field to a body whose brightness rivals that of Jupiter at the high resolution that Ralph is capable of."

Launched last Jan. 19, New Horizons is currently 283 million kilometers (176 million miles) from Earth, moving about the Sun at about 27 kilometers (17 miles) per second. The spacecraft is on course to fly through the Jupiter system for science studies and a gravity assist, with closest approach to the giant planet set for Feb. 28, 2007.

Source: NASA/JHUAPL - New Horizons

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Waspie_Dwarf
New Horizons Continuing on to Pluto, Planet or Not


user posted image
Image above: Liftoff of the Atlas V carrying NASA's New Horizons
spacecraft to a distant date with Pluto! Image credit: NASA/KSC
+ View high-res version


Poor New Horizons. When it launched in January 2006 it was with all the prestige of the first spacecraft to study Pluto, the last unvisited planet in the solar system. That changed seven months later, when astronomers decided that Pluto was not a planet. For the time being, New Horizons is at least the first mission to a dwarf planet -- the new class of objects into which scientists dumped Pluto. But that doesn't mean it will be the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet. Under the new definition (it's still unclear), Ceres may be upgraded from asteroid to dwarf planet, and if NASA's Dawn mission launches as planned next summer, it will arrive at Ceres in February 2015, five months before New Horizons gets to Pluto.

In the meantime, New Horizons' mission remains the same: to unlock one of the solar system's last, great secrets. The spacecraft will cross the orbits of all the planets from Earth to Neptune and fly by Pluto and Charon in July 2015. Charon had been generally regarded as Pluto's moon, but the new definition of planet may change its status as well. Apparently, not even the astronomers are entirely sure. Regardless, the seven science instruments on the piano-sized New Horizons probe will shed light on the bodies' surface properties, geology, interior makeup and atmospheres.

Mission Milestones
February 2007 - Jupiter gravity assist
March 2007 - June 2015 Interplanetary cruise
July 2015 - Pluto-Charon encounter
2016-2020 - Kuiper Belt objects encounter


Source: NASA - New Horizons

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For Immediate Release

September 1, 2006

Pluto-Bound Camera Sees 'First Light'

New Horizons Payload Fully Operational as Telescopic Imager Glimpses Star Cluster

The highest-resolution camera on NASA's Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft is seeing stars, and mission scientists and engineers couldn't be more excited.

user posted image

On Aug. 29, 2006, the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) opened its launch cover door and took its first image in space, of Messier 7, a star cluster in our Milky Way galaxy. The image shows the center of Messier 7, which was catalogued by Charles Messier in 1764, and described by Ptolemy around 130 A.D. Stars to at least 12th magnitude are clearly visible, meaning LORRI's sensitivity and noise levels in space are consistent with its pre-launch calibrations on the ground. Directionally, north is at the top of the images, east is to the left.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

user posted image

On Aug. 29, 2006, the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) opened its launch cover door and took its first image in space, of Messier 7, a star cluster in our Milky Way galaxy. This "negative" image shows the center of Messier 7, which was catalogued by Charles Messier in 1764, and described by Ptolemy around 130 A.D. Stars to at least 12th magnitude are clearly visible, meaning LORRI's sensitivity and noise levels in space are consistent with its pre-launch calibrations on the ground. Directionally, north is at the top of the images, east is to the left.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

This week the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) opened its protective cover and took its first image in space, of Messier 7, a star cluster in our Milky Way galaxy. The electronic snapshot also meant that all seven New Horizons science instruments have now operated in space and returned good data since the spacecraft launched in January 2006.

Developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), which also built and operates the New Horizons spacecraft, LORRI is the long focal length, reflecting telescope on New Horizons, designed to acquire the highest-resolution images of Pluto and its moons during a flyby in summer 2015.

"LORRI is our 'eagle eyes' on New Horizons, providing the most detailed images we have," says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, Colo. "This week's virtuoso first-light performance by LORRI is the best news any Pluto fan could hope for."

Operating on commands stored in the spacecraft's computer, the hinged cover door popped open just after 2:40 a.m. EDT on Aug. 29, and LORRI snapped its first image about five and a half minutes later. Data reached the APL Mission Operations Center in Maryland during a scheduled connection through NASA's Deep Space Network just after 11 a.m. EDT. First came data that temperatures on the camera were cooling, indicating that the door had opened. Then the image arrived on operators' screens. "I see stars!" said APL's Steve Conard, who led the engineering team that built and tested LORRI.

"Our hope was that LORRI's first image would prove not only that the cover had opened completely, but that LORRI was capable of providing the required high-resolution imaging of Pluto and Charon," says Andy Cheng, LORRI principal investigator, from APL. "Our hopes were not only met, but exceeded."

The image shows the center of the famous star cluster Messier 7, which was catalogued by Charles Messier in 1764, and described by Ptolemy around 130 A.D. Stars to at least 12th magnitude are clearly visible, meaning LORRI's sensitivity and noise levels in space are consistent with its pre-launch calibrations on the ground.

LORRI is a panchromatic high-magnification imager, consisting of a telescope with an 8.2-inch (20.8-centimeter) aperture that focuses visible light onto a charge-coupled device (CCD). It's essentially a digital camera with a large telephoto telescope, only fortified to operate in the cold, hostile environs near Pluto. LORRI has no color filters or moving parts; operators take images by pointing the LORRI side of the spacecraft at their target. The instrument's silicon carbide construction kept its mirror focused even after the its temperature plunged by more than 120 degrees F (50 degrees C) once the door opened. LORRI is now approximately at the same temperature it will be when takes close-up images of Pluto nine years from now.

Before then LORRI will focus on the Jupiter system, taking its first pictures of the giant planet on Sept. 4. Next Feb. 28 the spacecraft will pass within 1.4 million miles (2.27 million kilometers) of Jupiter, getting a gravity assist toward Pluto and training its instruments on Jupiter and several jovian moons. While there, LORRI will study many aspects of Jupiter, including the planet's weather and aurora, its rings, and its fascinating satellite system.

Part of NASA's New Frontiers Program, New Horizons is the first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt of rocky, icy objects beyond. Dr. Stern leads the mission and science team as principal investigator; SwRI led development of the New Horizons science payload. APL, in Laurel, Md., manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

Source: NASA/JHUAPL - New Horizons

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Waspie_Dwarf

For Immediate Release

September 26, 2006

Jupiter Ahoy

New Horizons Payload Fully Operational as Telescopic Imager Glimpses Star Cluster

Blazing along its path to Pluto, NASA's New Horizons has come within hailing distance of Jupiter. The first picture of the giant planet from the spacecraft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), taken Sept. 4, 2006, is a tantalizing promise of what's to come when New Horizons flies through the Jupiter system early next year.

New Horizons was still 291 million kilometers (nearly 181 million miles) away from Jupiter when LORRI took the photo. As New Horizons comes much closer, next January and February, LORRI will take more-detailed images.

user posted image

The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft took this photo of Jupiter on Sept. 4, 2006, from a distance of 291 million kilometers (nearly 181 million miles) away.

Visible in the image are belts, zones and large storms in Jupiter's atmosphere, as well as the Jovian moons Europa (at left) and Io and the shadows they cast on Jupiter.

LORRI snapped this image during a test sequence to help prepare for the Jupiter encounter observations. It was taken close to solar opposition, meaning that the Sun was almost directly behind the camera when it spied Jupiter. This makes Jupiter appear about 40 times brighter than Pluto will be for LORRI's primary observations when New Horizons encounters the Pluto system in 2015.

To avoid saturation, the camera's exposure time was kept to 6 milliseconds. This image was, in part, a test to see how well LORRI would operate with such a short exposure time.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

"These first LORRI images of Jupiter are awe-inspiring," says New Horizons Project Scientist Hal Weaver, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), where LORRI was designed and built. "New Horizons is speeding toward this majestic planet at 45,000 miles per hour, right on target for a close encounter on February 28 of next year. LORRI's resolution at Jupiter will be 125 times better than now, and we're really looking forward to getting the most detailed views of the Jovian system since Cassini's flyby in late 2000 and Galileo's final images in 2003."

Now on the outskirts of the asteroid belt, LORRI snapped this image during a test sequence to help prepare for the Jupiter encounter observations. It was taken close to solar opposition, meaning that the Sun was almost directly behind the camera when it spied Jupiter. This makes Jupiter appear blindingly bright, about 40 times brighter than Pluto will be for LORRI's primary observations when New Horizons encounters the Pluto system in 2015. To avoid saturation, the camera's exposure time was kept to 6 milliseconds. This image was, in part, a test to see how well LORRI would operate with such a short exposure time.

"LORRI's first Jupiter image is all we could have expected," says LORRI Principal Investigator Andy Cheng, of APL. "We see belts, zones and large storms in Jupiter's atmosphere. We see the Jovian moons Io and Europa, as well as the shadows they cast on Jupiter. It is most gratifying to detect these moons against the glare from Jupiter."

LORRI wasn't the only New Horizons instrument peeking at Jupiter on Sept. 4; the Ralph imager also performed some important calibrations. "We rapidly scanned Ralph's Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera [MVIC] across Jupiter to test a technique we plan to employ near closest approach next February. We also observed Jupiter in the infrared using Ralph's Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array [LEISA]," says Ralph Program Manager Cathy Olkin, of the Southwest Research Institute. "Everything worked great."

New Horizons won't observe Jupiter again until early January 2007, when periodic monitoring will begin, followed by intensive observations at the end of February. The spacecraft will also continue to look at the Jovian magnetosphere for several months after closest approach.

"New Horizons is headed to a spectacular science encounter with the Jupiter system early next year," says mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute. "The first LORRI images of Jupiter just whet our appetite for the observations to come."

New Horizons, the first spacecraft to Pluto and the distant Kuiper Belt region, launched on Jan. 19, 2006. To follow New Horizons on its journey, and for the latest mission information, visit http://pluto.jhuapl.edu.

Source: NASA/JHUAPL - New Horizons

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Making Old Horizons New


November 1, 2006

Since I last wrote in this space, September wound up, October came and went, and November is now upon us. Up on New Horizons, we've completed another long series of important milestones as we prepare our spacecraft and instrument payload for the long journey ahead.

As we continue to fly outward from the Sun at 78,700 kilometers (48,600 miles) an hour, our communications time, or RTLT (round trip light time), is increasing rapidly. In fact, it's now approaching an hour and a half round trip, at the speed of light! For that reason, our mission and payload operations team has been working to complete a whole series of activities that are best done now, before the communications time increases still further. Since late September, they've completed each of the following activities:

user posted image
New Horizons is now beyond 4 astronomical units
(AU) from the Sun. That puts us three-quarters of
the way to Jupiter, which we'll pass on Feb. 28,
2007.

  1. Loading and enabling the Guidance and Control flight software build 4 (G & C 4.0), our cruise load, which I wrote about in my previous two columns.
  2. Completing initial calibrations and taking the first cruise science plasma data with our particles and fields instruments, PEPSSI and SWAP.
  3. Calibrating Venetia, our student-built dust counter, to filter out noises on the spacecraft that mimic the dust particle impacts we're trying to study.
  4. Loading and activating Autonomy Flight Software build 14, containing a series of enhancements and bug fixes to our onboard fault detection and correction software.

In addition to these activities, the spacecraft team at APL and our navigation team at KinetX, Inc., in southern California, have carefully compiled all available tracking data to show that our actual course is very close to the optimal trajectory to the Pluto aim point at Jupiter. At a meeting on Oct. 19, we concluded that we're so close to the optimal course that no corrections appear to be necessary on the way to Jupiter. Actually, we got a formal solution telling us we should make a mid-December course correction of about 0.4 meters/second (0.9 miles/hour), but the effort to design and test this engine burn wasn't worth the time it would take away from more important activities, like planning the best possible Jupiter encounter. Moreover, the error induced by skipping this maneuver will be small — only about 870 kilometers (550 miles) at Jupiter. That may sound like a lot, but when you compare that to the Pluto aim point's 2.48 million-kilometers distance from Jupiter, you see that we're on a bulls-eye course with a predicted error of 0.035% (that's 3.5 parts in ten thousand, folks, equivalent to throwing a football two miles and still putting it within easy reach of the receiver). So we'll accept this tiny aim-point error up for now, and then make it up in our planned post Jupiter trajectory flyby clean up engine burn next spring.

Back on Earth, we've been putting increasing amounts of effort into planning the long list of command sequences needed to take of the many calibration and science observations associated with our Jupiter flyby. Keep in mind that our mission team is very small — literally less than a couple of dozen operations people to plan and test all of this activity and control the spacecraft.

Every activity we plan — each imaging session, each spectroscopic observation, each plasma instrument activity, et cetera, et cetera requires us to design, code, and then test a unique command sequence two ways: via a software simulation and a run on the spacecraft simulator, followed by test results reviews and then uplinking to our bird out there past 4 AU.

With more than 165 observations on the Jupiter encounter wish list and a record-setting fast trajectory to Jupiter, we recently found ourselves on too tight of a schedule to get everything planned, built, tested, and ready for uplink to New Horizons.

So last week, as mission PI, I opted for us to go light on distant observations beginning in January and early February. This meant cutting out almost 2/3 of the originally hoped for observations in January. Most of these involved the two instruments I am responsible for, Alice and Ralph. Although we're still left with more than 20 science activities in January (a record compared to anything we did during instrument commissioning), including plasma monitoring on approach, imaging of Jupiter, and some distant calibration activities, there was pain in this, because I had to sacrifice a bevy of Io torus and Jovian auroral observations on approach.

The reward for this sacrifice on distant approach, however, comes at Jupiter. There, in an intensive 10-day period around our Feb. 28 closest approach, we now have a fighting chance of designing, testing and carrying out virtually all of the approximately 100 observation sequences planned to occur when we're in the heart of the Jupiter system.

It's no fun to cut anything out, but we're a small team on a tight budget and the time until we reach Jupiter is rapidly running out. In fact, observations will begin just two months from now — on Jan. 1, 2007!

user posted image
Jupiter (upper right), its magnetosphere, and its four
large moons, are all targets for study by New Horizons
during the upcoming early-2007 flyby.


Until then, we're planning a quiet couple of months on the spacecraft so we can focus on Jupiter activity planning and testing. Other than routine spacecraft housekeeping, we only plan a handful of cruise science measurements with SWAP and PEPSSI, a couple more Ralph, LORRI, and REX commissioning activities, and a test of our dual transmitter communications that we hope will allow us to double our downlink rates from Jupiter.

It's getting late in the day and I still have a New Horizons talk to prepare for the Texas Space Grant Consortium. But before I go, I have two more things to tell you about. The first is a recap of some of the exciting new Pluto-system science results presented at this year's Division of Planetary Science (DPS) meeting, which took place in Pasadena, California, in mid-October. The second is about the New Horizons communications blackout period in late November.

Let's begin with the news from planet Pluto and its moons. At DPS, more than 1,000 scientists and engineers gathered to present new results on every aspect of solar system formation, evolution, and content you can think of. Among the new findings I found most interesting for New Horizons, and therefore for you on this blog, are the following:
  • The spectroscopic discovery of ethane (C2H6) on Pluto's surface, presented by Dale Cruikshank of NASA/Ames Research Center (a New Horizons co-investigator) and colleagues. This ethane is produced from the photolysis or radiolysis (i.e., the chemical conversion driven by sunlight and charged particles) of frozen methane (CH4) on Pluto's surface and suspended in its atmosphere. Ethane on Pluto has long been predicted, but no one had actually detected it before.
  • A series of talks by various workers from MIT, SwRI, Lowell Observatory, and Williams College in the U.S., and from France, reporting the results of the June 12 occultation of a star by Pluto, giving us a new opportunity to probe Pluto's atmosphere. Among the findings that have emerged from that event were that Pluto's atmosphere remains at the higher pressure levels seen in 2002, with no sign of cooling or collapse just yet. However, an increasing amount of turbulence is being seen in Pluto's atmosphere. What that means isn't clear. A series of future stellar occultations will occur over the next five years, giving us a quasi-continuous capability to track Pluto's atmospheric evolution during most of the flight of New Horizons. This will help keep us from being overly surprised about its atmospheric state when we arrive.
  • An observation by Jason Cook (ASU) confirming that ammonia hydrates lie on Charon's surface. This exotic mixture was tentatively identified on Charon by Will Grundy of Lowell Observatory (another New Horizons co-investigator) in 2002 and 2003. Its discovery indicates Charon isn't just a dead water ball the diameter of Texas, but has a more interesting story to tell, possibly including recent cryovolcanism on its surface. We'll be on the lookout for that with LORRI, Ralph and Alice when New Horizons arrives.
  • Tight constraints on any extant rings at Pluto, reported both by Jay Pasachoff (Williams College) and Andrew Steffl (SwRI).
  • The first ground-based detections of Pluto's small satellites, Nix and Hydra, reported by Cesar Fuentes (Harvard) and also Christophe Dumas (JPL). Now that Nix and Hydra can be studied from the ground—in addition to from Hubble—I expect our knowledge of them to increase even faster.

Well, that wraps up the new science results I wanted to highlight for you. I'll close now with a little more on the communications blackout that will occur later this month.

user posted image
Our departure point and our destination:
Earth and Pluto, to scale.


The reason for the upcoming blackout is that we have a solar conjunction coming up in late November. More specifically, from November 19 to 27, New Horizons will be almost exactly on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth, with the spacecraft's position in Earth's sky less than 3 degrees from the position of the Sun, making communications difficult. This happens to most planetary spacecraft each year, and some of you will recall that the Mars rovers and orbiters all experienced a solar conjunction blackout in October.

As a result of the Sun's interference, we won't plan to communicate with New Horizons at all during those eight days, but we will monitor its carrier signal to see how close to the Sun we can operate in future solar conjunctions. We think we can successfully communicate more like 2 degrees off the Sun, rather than the 3 degrees we're sure of. If this proves out to be true, then each subsequent annual conjunction/communications blackout the rest of the way to Pluto and across the Kuiper Belt will be dramatically shorter than this one. I'll let you know how we did on that test in my next update, sometime in the first part of December.

In the meantime, keep on exploring!

-Alan Stern

Source: NASA/JHUPL - New Horizons

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A Season for Thanksgiving


November 22, 2006

It's Thanksgiving and I just want to wish everyone a great Thanksgiving holiday. We sure have no shortage of things to be thankful for on this project.

A year ago today we had a spacecraft on the ground in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center, a booster rocket with RP-1 tank problems, an autonomy system that was considered fragile, and dozens of other like issues to deal with just to get to launch. In fact, exactly a year ago today, New Horizons Project Manager Glen Fountain and I were in Daytona and other central Florida locales with KSC folks and New Horizons Program Executive Kurt Lindstrom talking to the editorial board of the local paper to allay concerns about the upcoming January nuclear launch we were planning. Fueling the spacecraft with hydrazine was just around the corner, and we had an appointment at LC-41 just three weeks away. Everything about flight ops seemed impending but somehow theoretical with that big launch of a new Atlas V variant looming in our future.

Today we're 4.4 Astronomical Units from the Sun and 5.3 AU from the good Earth, speeding on to another appointment — this one at Jupiter — just under 100 days hence. Our spacecraft is right on course and in fine shape, as is its scientific payload. We have an operations team that has settled in and impressed people across the project and at NASA with their skills. We have more fuel aboard than anyone rightfully deserved to expect, and our spacecraft has flown 300-plus days without a single "Go Safe." And these things just scratch the surface of what we can be thankful for.

So, from the PI to all of you, Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for all you have done and all you are doing to make this dream mission come true. I hope you all have a great, long weekend with family and friends while New Horizons quietly passes through solar conjunction.

Best Wishes,
Alan Stern


Source: NASA/JHUPL - New Horizons

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New Horizons, Not Quite to Jupiter, Makes First Pluto Sighting


November 28, 2006

The New Horizons team got a faint glimpse of the mission's distant, main planetary target when one of the spacecraft's telescopic cameras spotted Pluto for the first time.

The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) took the pictures during an optical navigation test on Sept. 21-24, and stored them on the spacecraft's data recorder until their recent transmission back to Earth. Seen at a distance of about 4.2 billion kilometers (2.6 billion miles) from the spacecraft, Pluto is little more than a faint point of light among a dense field of stars. But the images prove that the spacecraft can find and track long-range targets, a critical capability the team will use to navigate New Horizons toward 2,500-kilometer wide Pluto and, later, one or more 50-kilometer sized Kuiper Belt objects.

Mission scientists knew they had Pluto in their sights when LORRI detected an unresolved "point" in Pluto's predicted position, moving at the planet's expected rate of motion across the constellation of Sagittarius near the plane of the Milky Way galaxy. Pluto appears in all three images of that region of space LORRI photographed on Sept. 21 and Sept. 24, confirming that it was "real" and not a cosmic ray or other object. For further confirmation, the object moving along Pluto's predicted path in the sky has a visual magnitude (brightness) a little brighter than 14, just what could be expected from Pluto at that time and that distance from New Horizons.

IPB Image
Click for larger image

To analyze the images for their moving target, the team actually pulled a page out of Clyde Tombaugh's Pluto discovery book, stroboscopically switching between multiple images of the same area taken days apart. Using this technique, objects such as stars appear stationary, but moving targets, such as a planet, are easily seen jumping between positions against the star field.

"Finding Pluto in this dense star field really was like trying to find a needle in a haystack," says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute. "Clyde Tombaugh would have been proud because the LORRI team had to use the same technique that served him so well in discovering Pluto, but because LORRI produces digital images, they could avoid all the messy chemicals Clyde needed to develop the photographic plates!"

LORRI, designed and built by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), is crafted to obtain images at the highest possible resolution from the longest possible distance. This latest optical navigation test simulated the conditions under which LORRI will be required to find a Kuiper Belt object (and potential flyby target) as New Horizons approaches Pluto.

"LORRI passed this test with flying colors, because Pluto's signal was clearly detected at 30 to 40 times the noise level in the images," says New Horizons Project Scientist Hal Weaver of APL.

IPB ImageIPB Image
LORRI's location on the New Horizons spacecraft; at right, technicians install LORRI on New Horizons.

"Those of us who calibrated LORRI on the ground and in flight are not surprised to see what it can do, but we are mighty grateful that LORRI has survived launch and its first several months in space without any loss of performance," says LORRI Principal Investigator Andy Cheng, of APL. "We'll have to wait until early 2015 for LORRI to return better views of Pluto than have ever been seen before. In the meantime, we're looking forward to viewing the marvels of the Jupiter system this coming January and February."

Just beyond the Jupiter encounter, Stern says, the team will use LORRI to begin collecting valuable data on Pluto itself.

"We won't get useful science out of these first detections of Pluto," he says. "But during the next several years of approach, we'll use LORRI to study Pluto's brightness variation with our angle to the Sun to build a 'phase curve' we could never get from Earth or Earth orbit. This will allow us to derive new information about Pluto's surface properties even while we are still far away.

Click on each image below for more details.

IPB Image IPB Image
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on New Horizons acquired images of the Pluto field three days apart in late September 2006, in order to see Pluto's motion against a dense background of stars. LORRI took three frames at 1-second exposures on both Sept. 21 and Sept. 24. Because it moved along its predicted path, Pluto was detected in all six images.

These images are displayed using false-color to represent different intensities: the lowest intensity level is black, different shades of red mark intermediate intensities, and the highest intensity is white.

The images appear pixilated because they were obtained in a mode that compensates for the drift in spacecraft pointing over long exposure times. LORRI also made these observations before operators uploaded new flight-control software in October; the upgraded software package includes an optical navigation capability that will make LORRI approximately three times more sensitive still than for these Pluto observations.


Source: NASA/JHUPL - New Horizons

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Picturesque Orion

Lol, Pluto is so far away and lonely, well at least it has a moon and two more of caurse. I wander what New Horizons will find in the kuiper belt. :hmm:

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Hazzard
The New Horizons team got a faint glimpse of the mission's distant, main planetary target when one of the spacecraft's telescopic cameras spotted Pluto for the first time.

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/news_center/news/112806.htm

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Waspie_Dwarf

^^^ Merging this with the existing New Horizons thread.

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Hazzard

Sorry WD, its been a long day. :blink:

By the way, I got my name on that disc onboard.....anyone else?

Edited by hazzard

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Waspie_Dwarf

Sorry WD, its been a long day. :blink:

No problem sir.

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New Horizons in 2007


January 5, 2007

What a memorable year for New Horizons! After the final few ground preparations and flight approvals, we launched at 1900 GMT (2 p.m. EST) on January 19. I will never forget the sight of the giant, 210-foot-tall "A Train" leaving Florida for the Kuiper Belt, and how filled with pride I was for everyone who worked to see this milestone come to pass.

Launch was all we could have wished for. As a result, following launch, we only needed tiny trajectory correction maneuvers to put us on course for the Pluto aim point at Jupiter.

linked-image
In 2006 New Horizons raced its way out of the inner
solar system toward the gateway world Jupiter, king
of the so-called "second zone" of our planetary system,
which it will fly past on February 28, 2007.
(Click on image for larger version.)


On the way to Jupiter, the New Horizons team undertook a series of virtually flawlessly executed, multi-month spacecraft and instrument payload checkouts, an unexpected small-asteroid flyby, and behind-the-scenes preparations for our Jupiter encounter — which begins this month!

Since I last wrote in this space, at the start of November, New Horizons has moved outward almost another 100 million miles — from roughly 4.1 astronomical units to almost 5 AU from the Sun. Our spacecraft continues to perform well, and tracking plots show we're right on course. Last month, the spacecraft ground team uploaded further updated fault protection and correction software.

In November and December we concentrated on cruise science observations by our in situ instrument suite. In particular, the Solar Wind at Pluto (SWAP) and Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation (PEPSSI) plasma instruments have both been calibrating on and studying the interplanetary medium. At the same time, the Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter (VB-SDC) has been recording micrometeoroid impact data as the spacecraft traverses the asteroid belt to Jupiter.

During this same time, we received two kinds of good news on our communications capability. The first was a successful test of our dual transmitter capability. This means that we can, beginning this spring, increase our data rates by a factor of 1.5 to 2 times what we had planned prior to launch. This will speed the downlink of both engineering and science data during cruise, as well as at all of our flyby targets—from Jupiter to Pluto to Kuiper Belt objects beyond.

Also, as you might recall from my last post, in late November New Horizons flew almost directly behind the Sun as seen from Earth. This is called a "solar conjunction," and it causes interference with radio communications due to the competition between the spacecraft signal and the nearby Sun, which is a radio noise source to ground receivers during these times. (You can think of it as the spacecraft being in the radio glare of the Sun.) Although we conservatively planned on an eight-day communications outage due to the position of New Horizons, we found that our pre-flight radio interference calculations were very much on the safe side. In fact, we received data from New Horizons for much of this "blackout" period. Now that we've calibrated our communications capability through an actual in-flight solar conjunction, we know that future conjunctions, which along our trajectory occur late each year, will be less trouble and shorter than our first one — typically lasting just a handful of days.

The Year Ahead

Turning now to 2007, our Jupiter encounter has just begun. In total the encounter spans six months, from January through June. In future columns, I'll provide many more details. I plan to write those at an increasing pace until we pass Jupiter at the very end of February.

For now, I'll say that our mission and payload operations teams, working with our Jupiter Encounter Science Team (JEST), have been striving to plan and test more than 100 Jupiter observing sequences comprising more than 700 separate observations of Jupiter.

The first of these occurs January 5, with a Radio Science Experiment (REX) calibration using Jupiter.

linked-image
The New Horizons Jupiter Encounter press kit is
scheduled for release mid-day on January 18, the
day of our pre-encounter press conference.
Check our Web site at http://pluto.jhuapl.edu
anytime after then to get a copy
.

Over the next couple of weeks, PEPSSI and SWAP will continue to observe the interplanetary medium as we approach Jupiter, and Ralph and the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) will begin imaging the giant planet. If you're following closely on our Web site, you'll see us posting a New Horizons Jupiter "image of the week" beginning in mid-January.While this is all I want to say about our Jupiter encounter just now, I do want to tell you about our big picture plan for 2007.

Most of the first half of the year is, as you might imagine, focused on the Jupiter encounter. But that isn't all we'll do. We also have two opportunities for course correction maneuvers — one in mid-February and one in mid-May. We'll almost certainly execute a trajectory trim burn in May, as our post-Jupiter encounter work settles down; that maneuver is currently estimated to cost us about 2 meters per second (5 miles per hour) in fuel. We could delay this maneuver until the fall, but it would cost more fuel then, because we'd be letting differences caused by our actual (non-perfect) Jupiter encounter aim point build up longer. Whether we'll need the pre-encounter February burn is something we'll decide in mid-January. I'll keep you posted. So far, it looks like we can skip that maneuver.

After our Jupiter encounter, we'll also begin preparing for spacecraft hibernation, which will begin in July. I like to say that hibernation is the highway that will take us to Pluto. After all, we count on hibernation to both lower mission-operations costs and to reduce wear and tear on most spacecraft systems as we fly out to Pluto.

Before we go into hibernation, however, we need to downlink all of the Jupiter data we collect and complete the last 10% (or so) of the instrument payload commissioning activities. Back in September, we put these tests off until spring 2007 to give our flight control team more time to concentrate on Jupiter encounter planning.

In April, we'll also conduct a test run of spacecraft hibernation. Although we did this in ground testing, we want to gain some flight experience before the big plunge into long-term hibernation this summer. And when we do begin hibernation operations, we'll keep a close eye on the spacecraft health with multiple weekly Deep Space Network (DSN) passes for a few months, declining to weekly passes for another few months.

In all, we won't settle into long-term hibernation operations until mid-2008. And meanwhile, from late September through late November, we'll wake New Horizons up for the first of our annual, two-month spacecraft and instrument payload checkouts. During this time we'll also conduct more cruise science observations, just as we'll do in subsequent annual wake up periods.

Also this spring, we'll test some backup thrusters to alleviate the primary thruster overuse issue that I wrote about in my last update. And we'll once again uplink a few updates to our onboard fault protection and correction software, which continually matures as we fly our spacecraft.

Finally, late in the year, from roughly December 11-17, we'll experience our second solar conjunction period, limiting radio communications again.

As you can see from all this, 2007 is going to be a busy year for our operations team. In addition, our science team will be happily flooded, getting the Jupiter data reduced and archived, and analyzing the data to report initial results. Even our engineering team will be busy this year — building "NHOPS 2," a second New Horizons OPerations Simulator. NHOPS 2 will contain a replica of all spacecraft system and instrument avionics. We want it to serve as a ready-to-go backup in case anything breaks on our primary NHOPS 1 system during the long cruise to Pluto. It will also be useful for relieving some of the simulation load on NHOPS 1, which we seem to use 24-7. NHOPS 2 is scheduled to be complete by early 2008.

Meeting the 'Girl Who Named Pluto'

As I close this column, I want to tell you about a very special occasion. On December 19, mission co-investigator Dr. Mihaly Horanyi and I met just outside London and traveled to the home of Mrs. Venetia Burney Phair — "the little girl who named Pluto" as a primary school student back in 1930. Mihaly came over from Germany, where he is spending a sabbatical year; I was on my way to Italy to give a talk.

Mrs. Phair, now almost 88, is an impressive lady — cogent, resolute and full of the verve of life. We got to know each other and shared stories at an Italian restaurant. Then she showed us her family albums documenting the events surrounding the naming of Pluto, almost 80 years prior. Then Mihaly (the principal investigator of our Student Dust Counter instrument) and I presented Mrs. Phair with plaques dedicating the SDC in her honor and commemorating an asteroid we asked the International Astronomical Union to name for her. Mihaly also presented Mrs. Phair with a small model of New Horizons.

Mrs. Phair, her son Peter, and several of their friends then joined us after these ceremonies for tea and cookies. It was fun to meet Venetia in person and to hear about how she came to name Pluto so long ago. She's healthy and witty and wishing for a chance to be at our Pluto encounter in 2015; that seems like something we should make happen. She also tells me she's always wanted to meet Patsy Tombaugh, widow of Pluto's discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh. It was a memorable day.

linked-image
Top: Instrument Principal Investigator Mihaly
Horanyi presents Venetia Burney Phair with a
plaque dedicating the SDC as the Venetia
Burney Student Dust Counter on December
19, 2006; below: New Horizons mission
Principal Investigator Alan Stern presents
Mrs. Phair with an asteroid-dedication citation
during the Student Dust Counter renaming
ceremony.
(Click on images for larger version.)

linked-image

Next time, I'll have another special item to write about: something we call "New Horizons kids." I'll say more in a couple of weeks.

Well, that's all I have time to write just now. I'll be back with an update later in January as Jupiter nears. In the meantime, keep on exploring!
-Alan Stern


Source: NASA/JHUPL - New Horizons

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January 10, 2007

Jupiter Encounter Begins

The New Horizons Jupiter encounter is under way! The spacecraft began collecting data on the Jovian system this week, starting with black-and-white images of the giant planet and an infrared look at the icy moon Callisto on Jan. 8.

These were the first of about 700 observations of Jupiter and its four largest moons planned from now until June. They include detailed scans of Jupiter's turbulent, stormy atmosphere and dynamic magnetic field, a peek into its faint ring system, maps of the composition and topography of the moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, and a look at Io's volcanic activity. Also in the flight plan: the first-ever trip down the long "tail" of Jupiter's magnetic field, which extends tens of millions of miles beyond the planet.

The New Horizons mission operations team at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., works closely with science operations team, based at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colo., and mission scientists to plan, test and eventually send the observation commands to the spacecraft, which runs the sequences from memory in its onboard computers.

Data are stored on the spacecraft's recorders and sent back to Earth through NASA's Deep Space Network antennas. The newest images will be available on the New Horizons Web site next week.

"Our ground team has worked very hard to get to this point," says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of SwRI. "Now the curtain is rising on the next stage of Jupiter-system exploration. It's exciting!"

Closest approach to Jupiter comes Feb. 28, when the spacecraft zooms within 2.3 million kilometers (1.4 million miles). New Horizons uses Jupiter's gravity to speed toward its ultimate destination, Pluto.

Source: NASA/JHUPL - New Horizons - News

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NASA Spacecraft En Route to Pluto Prepares for Jupiter Encounter


The linked-image press release is reproduced below:

Jan. 18, 2007
Dwayne Brown/Tabatha Thompson
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1726/3895

Michael Buckley
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.
240-228-7536

RELEASE: 07-012

]NASA Spacecraft En Route to Pluto Prepares for Jupiter Encounter


WASHINGTON - NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is on the doorstep of the solar system's largest planet. The spacecraft will study and swing past Jupiter, increasing speed on its voyage toward Pluto, the Kuiper Belt and beyond.

The fastest spacecraft ever launched, New Horizons will make its closest pass to Jupiter on Feb. 28, 2007. Jupiter's gravity will accelerate New Horizons away from the sun by an additional 9,000 miles per hour, pushing it past 52,000 mph and hurling it toward a pass through the Pluto system in July 2015.

"Our highest priority is to get the spacecraft safely through the gravity assist and on its way to Pluto," says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo. "We also have an incredible opportunity to conduct a real-world encounter stress test to wring out our procedures and techniques, and to collect some valuable science data."

The New Horizons mission team will use the flyby to put the probe's systems and seven science instruments through the paces of more than 700 observations of Jupiter and its four largest moons. The planned observations from January through June include scans of Jupiter's turbulent, stormy atmosphere; a detailed survey of its ring system; and a detailed study of Jupiter's moons.

The spacecraft also will take the first-ever trip down the long "tail" of Jupiter's magnetosphere, a wide stream of charged particles that extends tens of millions of miles beyond the planet, and the first close-up look at the "Little Red Spot," a nascent storm south of Jupiter's famous Great Red Spot.

Much of the data from the Jupiter flyby will not be sent back to Earth until after the spacecraft's closest approach to the planet. New Horizons' main priority during the Jupiter close approach phase is to observe the planet and store data on its recorders before orienting its main antenna to transmit information home beginning in early March.

"Since launch, New Horizons will reach Jupiter faster than any of NASA's previous spacecraft and begin a year of extraordinary planetary science to complement future exploration activities," says Jim Green acting director, Planetary Science Division, NASA headquarters, Washington.

New Horizons has undergone a full range of system and instrument checkouts, instrument calibrations, flight software enhancements, and three propulsive maneuvers to adjust its trajectory.

After an eight-year cruise from Jupiter across the expanse of the outer solar system, New Horizons will conduct a five-month-long study of Pluto and its three moons in 2015. Scientific research will include studying the global geology, mapping surface compositions and temperatures, and examining Pluto's atmospheric composition and structure. A potential extended mission would conduct similar studies of one or more smaller worlds in the Kuiper Belt, the region of ancient, rocky, icy planetary building blocks far beyond Neptune's orbit.

New Horizons is the first mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program of medium-class spacecraft exploration projects. The Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md., manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The mission team also includes NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.; the U.S. Department of Energy, Washington; Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo.; and several corporations and university partners.

For more information on New Horizons on the Internet, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu

- end -

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Source: NASA Press Release 07-012

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