Tags: new horizons | probe | end | pluto | trek

New Horizons Probe Near End of 9-Year, 3-Billion-Mile Pluto Trek

By    |   Wednesday, 03 Dec 2014 07:25 AM

The New Horizons probe's 9-year, 3-billion-mile trek to Pluto is almost over and a lot has changed in that time – including the fact that many scientists no longer consider Pluto a planet – but that hasn't dulled the excitement of the spacecraft's arrival.

The NASA spacecraft is expected to come out of hibernation this week as it zips through deep space toward the now-officially-designated dwarf planet Pluto. Much of the spacecraft is unpowered when it is in hibernation mode, according to the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

"New Horizons is healthy and cruising quietly through deep space, nearly three billion miles from home, but its rest is nearly over," said Alice Bowman, New Horizons mission operations manager at the university's laboratory. "It's time for New Horizons to wake up, get to work, and start making history."

According to the Hopkins lab, once up and running, humans will get their best view of Pluto ever, including characterization of the global geology and topography of the dwarf planet and its large moon, Charon. The proble will map their surface compositions and temperatures, examine Pluto's atmospheric composition and structure, study Pluto's smaller moons, and search for new moons and rings,

New Horizons is equipped with advanced imaging infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers, a compact multicolor camera, a high-resolution telescopic camera, two powerful particle spectrometers, a space-dust detector and two radio science experiments, according to the university.

"It's hard for me to believe, but after almost nine years of flight, we are literally on Pluto's doorstep, on schedule, in good health, and on course," said Alan Stern, NASA's principal investigator for the New Horizons mission, in a statement on NASA's website.

"After wake-up comes five weeks of 'pregame' work, as we prepare and put New Horizons through a few final tests before the encounter. Then, on Jan. 15, we begin what we came here for: the start of Pluto encounter data-collection," said Stern.

The Hopkins lab said New Horizons will make its closest approach to Pluto on July 14.

"We've worked years to prepare for this moment," said Mark Holdridge, New Horizons encounter mission manager at Johns Hopkins. "We are ready to go."

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The New Horizons probe's 9-year, 3-billion-mile trek to Pluto is almost over and a lot has changed in that time – including the fact that many scientists no longer consider Pluto a planet – but that hasn't dulled the excitement of the spacecraft's arrival.
new horizons, probe, end, pluto, trek
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2014-25-03
Wednesday, 03 Dec 2014 07:25 AM
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