New images of Pluto taken by the New Horizons probe have just been released:
These are the most recent high-resolution views of Pluto sent by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, including one showing the four mysterious dark spots on Pluto that have captured the imagination of the world. The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) obtained these three images between July 1 and 3 of 2015, prior to the July 4 anomaly that sent New Horizons into safe mode.
The left image shows, on the right side of the disk, a large bright area on the hemisphere of Pluto that will be seen in close-up by New Horizons on July 14. The three images together show the full extent of a continuous swath of dark terrain that wraps around much of Pluto’s equatorial region. The western end of the swath (right image) breaks up into a series of striking dark regularly-spaced spots, each hundreds of miles in size, which were first detected in New Horizons images taken in late June. Intriguing details are beginning to emerge in the bright material north of the dark region, in particular a series of bright and dark patches that are conspicuous just below the center of the disk in the right image. In all three black-and-white views, the apparent jagged bottom edge of Pluto is the result of image processing. The inset shows Pluto’s orientation, illustrating its north pole, equator, and central meridian running from pole to pole.
The color version of the July 3 LORRI image was created by adding color data from the Ralph instrument gathered earlier in the mission.
SPECIAL TIME: 1. Monday, July 6, 2015: 7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT; 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome back JIM MUNCY for important space policy news updates. .
2. Tuesday, July 7, 2015:,7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome DR. CHARLES LIMOLI TO THE PROGRAM. We will be discussing Dr. Limoli’s radiation paper, “What happens to your brain on the way to Mars. Please be familiar with this paper prior to the show. You can read the paper at http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/4/e1400256.full.
3. Friday, July 10, 2015; 9:30 -11 AM PDT (12:30-2 PM EDT; 11:30-1 PM CDT):We welcome DR. ROBERT KOOIMA to the show to discuss the visualization of the Moon‘s and planet’s surfaces from massive data (as LRO data).
4. Sunday, July 12, 2015: 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): We welcome back to the show AL GLOBUS who will be discussing space settlement, radiation shielding, artificial gravity and more. [See my recent post here about Globus’s space settlement ideas.]
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
This week we bring on Ryan Holmes, Co-founder, CEO, Chief Designer and Issac Desouza, Co founder, CTO of SpaceVR to talk about their ambitions to put a VR camera on the International Space Station.
NASA’s New Horizons mission is returning to normal science operations after a July 4 anomaly and remains on track for its July 14 flyby of Pluto.
The investigation into the anomaly that caused New Horizons to enter “safe mode” on July 4 has concluded that no hardware or software fault occurred on the spacecraft. The underlying cause of the incident was a hard-to-detect timing flaw in the spacecraft command sequence that occurred during an operation to prepare for the close flyby. No similar operations are planned for the remainder of the Pluto encounter.
“I’m pleased that our mission team quickly identified the problem and assured the health of the spacecraft,” said Jim Green, NASA’s Director of Planetary Science. “Now – with Pluto in our sights – we’re on the verge of returning to normal operations and going for the gold.”
Preparations are ongoing to resume the originally planned science operations on July 7 and to conduct the entire close flyby sequence as planned. The mission science team and principal investigator have concluded that the science observations lost during the anomaly recovery do not affect any primary objectives of the mission, with a minimal effect on lesser objectives. “In terms of science, it won’t change an A-plus even into an A,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder.
Adding to the challenge of recovery is the spacecraft’s extreme distance from Earth. New Horizons is almost 3 billion miles away, where radio signals, even traveling at light speed, need 4.5 hours to reach home. Two-way communication between the spacecraft and its operators requires a nine-hour round trip.
Status updates will be issued as new information is available.
- International Space Station over Australia – Deography by Dylan O’Donnell
- Stunning photo catches the ISS in transit over the full moon – Yahoo
Find more about tracking and photographing spacecraft in orbit in the HobbySpace Satellite Observing section.
The New Horizons spacecraft, which will fly past Pluto on July 14th, went into safe mode on Saturday. This happens occasionally with most spacecraft. It is like a reboot on a computer. Something unexpected happened, for example a memory bit flipping its value due to a cosmic ray hitting a RAM chip, and the control system is programmed to shut everything down and run only the most essential components including the communications gear.
The ground system team then re-establishes contact with the spacecraft and downloads data regarding why the system went into safe mode. After diagnosing what happened, the team will carefully restart one subsystem after another and will try to either fix or route around any component, e.g. a bad section of memory, that has a problem that could result in another safe mode incident.
[ Update 6:20 EDT July.5.15: No further updates yet from the New Horizons team on the recovery of the spacecraft from Safe Mode. Here are some articles about the incident:
- New Horizons enters safe mode 10 days before Pluto flyby – Emily Lakdawalla/The Planetary Society
- Technical problem pauses Pluto probe’s science operations – Spaceflight Now
- Pluto Probe Suffers Glitch 10 Days Before Epic Flyby – Space.com
This brief “Random Space Fact” video from the Planetary Society’s Bruce Betts was made before the Safe Mode incident but he provides some scale for the speed and distances involved in the mission:
Here is a statement on Saturday from the New Horizons team about the incident:
The New Horizons spacecraft experienced an anomaly this afternoon that led to a loss of communication with Earth. Communication has since been reestablished and the spacecraft is healthy.
The mission operations center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, lost contact with the unmanned spacecraft — now 10 days from arrival at Pluto — at 1:54 p.m. EDT, and regained communications with New Horizons at 3:15 p.m. EDT, through NASA’s Deep Space Network.
During that time the autonomous autopilot on board the spacecraft recognized a problem and – as it’s programmed to do in such a situation – switched from the main to the backup computer. The autopilot placed the spacecraft in “safe mode,” and commanded the backup computer to reinitiate communication with Earth. New Horizons then began to transmit telemetry to help engineers diagnose the problem.
A New Horizons Anomaly Review Board was convened at 4 p.m. EDT to gather information on the problem and initiate a recovery plan. The team is now working to return New Horizons to its original flight plan. Due to the 9-hour, round trip communication delay that results from operating a spacecraft almost 3 billion miles (4.9 billion kilometers) from Earth, full recovery is expected to take from one to several days; New Horizons will be temporarily unable to collect science data during that time.
Status updates will be issued as new information is available.
Check out, To The Stars International Quarterly – July 2015 (pdf). It is a joint publication of several space activist organizations including
- National Space Society
- Moon Society
- Space Renaissance International
- Mars Foundation
- OpenLuna Foundation, Inc.
- Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS-USA)
Here is the cover page and table of contents of the 200 page issue:
The Public Telescope is a German private initiative to develop, launch, and operate a space-based observatory that would be dedicated for the use of the general public, students, as well as professional astronomers. They are seeking private backing as well as public funding. (I cannot find a total estimated cost of the observatory.) User fees would finance the operation of the telescope. The article – astrofactum: The first Public Space Telescope – SpaceOps Journal – July.2014 – describes the overall plan.
They recently obtained an EU grant:
astrofactum GmbH, Institute for Astronomy and Space Technology receives support from the European Union for the development of their project Public Telescope.The Public Telescope project is a private sector initiative to develop and build a commercial space telescope, which can be used by anyone.
The support of the project by the European Union is carried out within the EU funding program Horizon 2020 (SME Instrument 1st funding level), which has set itself the objective of strengthening the competitiveness of innovative European companies in global competition. The European Commission refers to the winners of the funding program as the most innovative European companies with the most innovative ideas.
The first stage of European funding amounting to 50,000 euros will be used to substantiate the commercial use model for the space telescope as part of its feasibility study. Subsequently further funding from the same EU program will be applied for to develop the necessary infrastructure for the satellite and the marketing.
“The support of the project by the European Commission is an important signal to potential new investors. We are delighted with the esteem and the confidence that the European Commission puts into the Public Telescope project. “says Heiko Wilkens, project initiator of Public Telescope.
Project Public Telescope
astrofactum offers with the Public Telescope project for the first time ever access to astronomical observations with a space telescope (80 cm) for the target groups science, amateur astronomy, education as well as to astronomy interested persons. The monitoring capacity can be used via an online platform. Monitoring projects of scientists will be individually supervised by the astrofactum science team.
For science the Space Telescope will close the gap in the ultraviolet range (UV) between the Hubble telescope (operational end in 2020 at the very latest) and future UV missions. The start of the operational service is planned from 2025. Access to the UV spectral region (observation only outside the atmosphere possible) is for astrophysical research in virtually all areas of fundamental importance.
Public Telescope represents a further advantage for international scientific enterprises whose countries are not involved in astronomical space missions and thus are limited in using existing space capabilities for research purposes.
The Space Telescope offers next to science also to amateur astronomy and education (students) an astronomical instrument outside the earth’s atmosphere. Observations of planets, nebulae, galaxies and many other objects can be carried out outside the earth’s atmosphere in an interference-free picture quality without the limitations of air and light pollution, air turbulence or the filter effect.
New for both target groups (amateur astronomy and education) is the first-time access and the related observation possibilities of objects in the UV spectral range.
Two recent Space Pod short video reports from TMRO.tv:
* “TMRO Chief Astronomer Jared Head shares his Top 5 rockets with a few surprises, for this week’s SpacePod.”
* “TMRO Chief Astronomer Jared Head asks, “Is spaceflight still hard?” after seeing several news stories saying we shouldn’t call spaceflight difficult anymore.”
TMRO Space Pods are crowd funded shows. If you like [these episodes] consider contributing to help us to continue to improve. Head over to http://www.patreon.com/spacepod for information, goals and reward levels. Don’t forget to check out our weekly live show campaign as well over at http://www.patreon.com/tmro
Here is this week’s episode of NASA’s Space to Ground report on activities related to the International Space Station:
– look fantastic and would clearly be places where many people would live if they existed today. The problem, of course, is that they do not exist and it’s difficult to convince people that it’s possible to ever build such gigantic habitats. But there are in fact ways to get from here to there.
When I fly into a big city and look out the window as the plane descends, I’m always amazed at just how enormous such places are. How could mere mortals create such a vast landscape of houses, buildings, skyscrapers, roads, bridges, harbors, and more? The answer, of course, is a city starts as a small settlement and over many decades the incremental efforts of thousands upon tens of thousands of people and their machines working in parallel day after day, year after year, create such massive metropolises.
Such a process can create cities in space as well. New Rome in orbit doesn’t have to be built in a day. We just need to get small “starter” settlements off the ground, so to speak.
That’s easy to say but what about the high cost of getting to space?
Fully reusable space transports like that being developed by SpaceX, Blue Origin, and other companies can bring down the cost of getting to space by factors of 10-100. The cost of propellants is a less than a half percent of the cost of an orbital rocket launch. The rest of, say, the $60M cost of Falcon 9 goes for the vehicle, which currently is thrown away on each flight.
What about the detrimental effects of microgravity and radiation on human health?
Rotation of a habitat can provide artificial gravity and bulk materials such as water and structural metals can shield people in a habitat just as the atmosphere shields people on earth.
The toughest question is how to get started. When giant habitats like those above were being designed in the 1970s, it was assumed that most of the material would be sent from the Moon. All of this would be paid for by huge investments from governments who would appreciate the construction of in-space solar power stations feeding energy via microwave to the earth.
Excavation activities on the Moon, space base solar power, and big government funding do not look likely to happen anytime soon, to say the least. Is there any other way to get space settlement underway?
Yes, it can still happen if the process can start small and pay its own way. Al Globus, who works as a contractor at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, describes in a set of three documents listed below a plan for small affordable space habitats in low earth equatorial orbit that will provide 1 g gravity and enjoy sufficient radiation protection for residents to live a healthy life. Space tourism will be a primary industry similar to the way many island economies on earth rely on tourism.
* Space Settlement the Easy Way, Al Globus and Stephen Covey, presentation at ISDC 2015, May 2015.
“This presentation shows how the results of the next two papers — “Space Settlement Population Rotation Tolerance” and “Orbital Space Settlement Radiation Shielding” — when combined suggest that small space settlements in equatorial LEO with little or no radiation shielding may be viable. Hopefully, this will be turned into a paper in the not-too-distant-future.”
* Space Settlement Population Rotation Tolerance, Al Globus and Theodore Hall, preprint, June 2015.
“This paper reviews the literature to find that space settlement residents and visitors can tolerate at least four, and proabaly six, rotations per minute to achieve 1g of artificial gravity. This means settlements can be radically smaller, and thus easier to build, than previously believed. Combined with the next paper on radiation shielding, the first space settlements can be two orders of magnitude less massive and closer to Earth than previous designs making launch from Earth practical.”
* Orbital Space Settlement Radiation Shielding, Al Globus and Joe Strout, preprint, May 2015.
“The major result of this paper is that settlements in low (~500 km) Earth ***equatorial*** orbits may not require any radiation shielding at all based on a careful analysis of requirements and extensive simulation of radiation effects. This radically reduces system mass and has profound implications for space settlement as extraterrestrial mining and manufacturing are no longer on the critical path to the first settlements, although they will be essential in later stages. It also means the first settlements can evolve from space stations, hotels, and retirement communities in relatively small steps.”
Globus answered questions about space settlements in a recent on line forum: A NASA Expert Is Here To Answer Your Questions About Orbital Settlements – Gizmodo.
Below is a NASA video and article about protein growth in microgravity. (Note that a Schering Plough protein crystal experiment carried out on Shuttle Columbia’s last flight led directly to a treatment for Hepatitis-C: Space KSC: I’m a Doctor, Not an Astronaut – Space KSC) :
In one of many direct Earth applications of International Space Station research, the newest Benefits for Humanity video in the Benefits series highlights how high-quality crystals grown in microgravity lead to new therapeutics for disease. Learn how the investigation of protein crystals in space is helping to treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), an incurable genetic disorder affecting the muscles with onset usually in early childhood and primarily in young males.
Research into a disease like DMD involves the study of the structure of associated proteins by crystallization, which helps researchers better understand protein function. This comprises making millions of copies of that protein and arranging them in three-dimensional rows. Crystals grown on Earth are impacted by gravity, which may affect the way the molecules align on the surface of the crystal. Researchers have discovered that growing crystals aboard the space station allows for slower growth and higher quality crystals.
Since 2003, scientists with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency have conducted protein crystal growth investigations on the space station, including proteins associated with DMD. Having a better understanding of the protein’s shape enabled researchers to design a drug that fits specifically into a location on the protein associated with DMD. The research team estimates that the drug may be able to slow the progression of DMD by half.
“Studying this protein led to a huge discovery,” said Dr. Yoshihiro Urade, Ph.D., professor at the University of Tsukuba in Tsukuba, Japan. “What we’re talking about is potentially doubling the lifespan of many DMD patients, and it’s all because of research opportunities afforded to us by the International Space Station.”
With many other protein crystal growth studies occurring or planned aboard the space station, many thousands of other proteins’ structures could be determined. This is yet another way the orbiting laboratory is enabling research Off the Earth, For the Earth
My interview with David Livingston on The Space Show in the evening is now available on line: Dr. Clark Lindsey, Tuesday, 6-30-15 – Thespaceshow’s Blog.
Listen to the audio (mp3).
David provides a detailed review of our discussion. We had a fun chat about everything from smallsats to SpaceX to in-space fuel depots to NewSpace Global. (At NSG I am the managing editor of the NewSpace Watch daily report on happenings in the industry and community.)
David also provides a link to the slides (pdf) from my talk about the satellite industry that I gave at the Space Access meeting in Phoenix in the spring.
The Mars One project was given a lot of grief several months ago when an MIT student team found several flaws in their preliminary outline for life support for the people living in a habitat on the surface of the Red Planet. (See Mars One (and done?) – MIT News.) Mars One, however, had contracted a study on life support by Paragon Space Development Corporation. Paragon is a leader in the field of environmental control and life support systems (ECLSS) and has been involved in many projects for NASA, Boeing, and others.
Below is a statement from Mars One on the results of Paragon’s assessment of the feasibility of a sustainable habitat on Mars. The general conclusion is that it is feasible to sustain a crew on the planet. The results of the study are available in this document: Mars One Habitat ECLSS Conceptual Design Assessment (pdf).
Mars One will also participate in a debate with the MIT team at the upcoming Mars Society Conference in D.C. in August: Mars One to Debate MIT Critics at Mars Society Convention – The Mars Society.
Amersfoort, 1st July 2015 – Mars One is pleased to present the initial conceptual design of the Surface Habitat Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS) performed by Paragon Space Development Corporation®. The ECLSS is one of the key systems required to support a human settlement on Mars and will create a safe environment for the future Mars inhabitants, supplying them with clean air and water while recycling wastes.
“Paragon was provided the opportunity to conduct a completely independent study on the feasibility of a system that would support life on Mars and that study led us to believe that it is an attainable goal.” said Grant Anderson, President and CEO of Paragon. “If the will and the means are provided, we will see humans begin to explore and even colonize other planets in our lifetime.”
Mars One contracted Paragon due to their specialization in engineering and manufacturing thermal control and life support systems with a specific focus on extreme environments.
“An ECLSS design for a permanent human settlement on Mars has never been implemented and will need to consider the unique challenges of an extreme Martian environment.” said Arno Wielders, Mars One’s Chief Technical Officer and Co-founder. “Paragon is very experienced with both Space and extreme Earth conditions. They have an established reputation as an ‘honest broker’ and an impressive track record of developing innovative yet practical life support and thermal control solutions for spaceflight and terrestrial applications, which makes them a good match.”
The ECLSS Functions
The ECLSS will primarily provide water and a healthy and comfortable atmosphere within the habitat. Since shipping resources from Earth to Mars is a costly endeavour, all breathable air and the water for the habitat will be produced using local Martian resources, otherwise known as in-situ resource utilization or ISRU. This process is vital to the long term goal of self-sufficiency for humans on Mars. The functions of the ECLSS are distributed across its five primary systems, which are described below:
- The Atmosphere Management System (AMS) controls carbon dioxide and other trace contaminants, produces oxygen via the electrolysis of waters, detects fires, controls the pressures of different atmospheric gases, controls the air temperature, and monitors overall air quality;
- The in-situ Resource Processing System (ISRPS) provides two main functions, namely water recovery from Martian regolith (soil) and nitrogen/argon production from the Martian atmosphere;
- The Wet Waste Processing System (WWPS) isolates human generated wet waste (such as urine) and extracts purified (but non-drinkable) water that is subsequently processed by the WMS for use by the crew;
- The Water Management System (WMS) collects non-drinkable water from the ISRPS, WWPS, and excess humidity in the habitat atmosphere and purifies it to produce clean water for drinking, food preparation, and hygiene;
- The Thermal Control System (TCS) balances the heat generated by the crew and electrical devices with losses to the surroundings while maintaining the crew and the equipment within an acceptable temperature range.
“Paragon has been in business for more than two decades developing life support solutions for extreme environments and Mars is the ultimate destination for us.” said Barry Finger, Paragon Chief Engineer and Director of Life Support Systems. “The challenges to humans surviving and thriving on Mars are significant and not to be taken lightly, but we are convinced that the goal is achievable with the tools and technologies that exist today.”
Mars One’s ECLSS has been designed with specific focus on simplicity, redundancy, reliability, and maintainability. The conceptual design has identified an architecture with local resources supplying most of the consumable needs of the Mars One outpost. The full report is available here: Mars One Habitat ECLSS (ECLSS) Conceptual Design Assessment.
About Mars One: Mars One is a not-for-profit foundation that will establish permanent human life on Mars. Human settlement on Mars is possible today. Mars One’s mission plan integrates core technologies that are readily available from industry leaders worldwide. The first footprint on Mars and lives of the crew thereon will captivate and inspire this generation and generations to come. It is this public interest that will help finance this human mission to Mars.
For more information about Mars One, please visit www.mars-one.com
About Paragon Space Development Corporation®: Paragon is a premier provider of environmental controls for extreme and hazardous environments. They design, build, test and operate life support and thermal control products and systems for astronauts, contaminated water divers, and extreme environment adventurers, as well as for unmanned space and terrestrial applications.
For more information about Paragon, please visit www.paragonsdc.com
Yet more news and pictures from New Horizons:
Yes, there is methane on Pluto, and, no, it doesn’t come from cows. The infrared spectrometer on NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft has detected frozen methane on Pluto’s surface; Earth-based astronomers first observed the chemical compound on Pluto in 1976.
“We already knew there was methane on Pluto, but these are our first detections,” said Will Grundy, the New Horizons Surface Composition team leader with the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. “Soon we will know if there are differences in the presence of methane ice from one part of Pluto to another.”
Methane (chemical formula CH4) is an odorless, colorless gas that is present underground and in the atmosphere on Earth. On Pluto, methane may be primordial, inherited from the solar nebula from which the solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago. Methane was originally detected on Pluto’s surface by a team of ground-based astronomers led by New Horizons team member Dale Cruikshank, of NASA’s Ames Research Center, Mountain View, California.
Come Fly with New Horizons on its Approach to Pluto
Images from New Horizons show the view from aboard the spacecraft closes in on the Pluto system for a July 14 flyby.
This time-lapse approach movie was made from images from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera aboard New Horizons spacecraft taken between May 28 and June 25, 2015. During that time the spacecraft distance to Pluto decreased almost threefold, from about 35 million miles to 14 million miles (56 million kilometers to 22 million kilometers). The images show Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, growing in apparent size as New Horizons closes in. As it rotates, Pluto displays a strongly contrasting surface dominated by a bright northern hemisphere, with a discontinuous band of darker material running along the equator. Charon has a dark polar region, and there are indications of brightness variations at lower latitudes.
Same sequence as above but with some extra information included
The New Horizons spacecraft has made a critical observation in preparation for its upcoming observations of Pluto’s tenuous atmosphere. Just hours after its flyby of Pluto on July 14, the spacecraft will observe sunlight passing through the planet’s atmosphere, to help scientists determine the atmosphere’s composition. “It will be as if Pluto were illuminated from behind by a trillion-watt light bulb,” said Randy Gladstone, a New Horizons scientist from Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio. On June 16, New Horizons’ Alice ultraviolet imaging spectrograph successfully performed a test observation of the sun from 3.1 billion miles away (5 billion kilometers), which will be used to interpret the July 14 observations.
New Horizons is now less than 11 million miles (18 million kilometers) from the Pluto system. The spacecraft is healthy and all systems are operating normally.
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built, and operates the New Horizons spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The Southwest Research Institute, based in San Antonio, leads the science team, payload operations and encounter science planning. New Horizons is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Follow the New Horizons mission on social media, and use the hashtag #PlutoFlyby to join the conversation. The mission’s official NASA Twitter account is @NASANewHorizons. Live updates will be available on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/new.horizons1
Here is a separate notice about a course correction for the spacecraft:
With just two weeks to go before its historic July 14 flight past Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft tapped the accelerator late last night and tweaked its path toward the Pluto system.
The 23-second thruster burst was the third and final planned targeting maneuver of New Horizons’ approach phase to Pluto; it was also the smallest of the nine course corrections since New Horizons launched in January 2006. It bumped the spacecraft’s velocity by just 27 centimeters per second – about one-half mile per hour – slightly adjusting its arrival time and position at a flyby close-approach target point approximately 7,750 miles (12,500 kilometers) above Pluto’s surface.
While it may appear to be a minute adjustment for a spacecraft moving 32,500 miles per hour, the impact is significant. New Horizons Mission Design Lead Yanping Guo, of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, says without the adjustment, New Horizons would have arrived 20 seconds late and 114 miles (184 kilometers) off-target from the spot where it will measure the properties of Pluto’s atmosphere. Those measurements depend on radio signals being sent from Earth to New Horizons at precise times as the spacecraft flies through the shadows of Pluto and Pluto’s largest moon, Charon.
In fact, timing and accuracy are critical for all New Horizons flyby observations, since those commands are stored in the spacecraft’s computers and programmed to “execute” at exact times.
This latest shift was based on radio-tracking data on the spacecraft and range-to-Pluto measurements made by optical-navigation imaging of the Pluto system taken by New Horizons in recent weeks. Using commands transmitted to the spacecraft on June 28, the thrusters began firing at 11:01 p.m. EDT on June 29 and stopped 23 seconds later. Telemetry indicating the spacecraft was healthy and that the maneuver went as designed began reaching the New Horizons Mission Operations Center at APL, through NASA’s Deep Space Network at 5:30 a.m. EDT on June 30.
“We are really on the final path,” said New Horizons Project Manager Glen Fountain, of APL. “It just gets better and more exciting every day.”
“This maneuver was perfectly performed by the spacecraft and its operations team,” added mission principal investigator Alan Stern, of Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. “Now we’re set to fly right down the middle of the optimal approach corridor.”
New Horizons is now about 10 million miles (16 million kilometers) from the Pluto system – some 2.95 billion miles (4.75 billion kilometers) from Earth
Yesterday was the 107th anniversary of the Tunguska airburst that leveled a 2000 square kilometer area of forest in Siberia. So June 30th is now commemorated as Asteroid Day and there were various events and many articles about asteroids and the threat of asteroid and comet impacts on earth. For example,
- 5 Steps to Preventing Asteroid Impact -The Planetary Society
- On Asteroid Day, raising awareness that Earth could get hit again – CBS News
- The greatest threat of planetary extinction that we’re all not talking about – The Washington Post
- Search for deadly asteroids must be accelerated to protect Earth, say experts – The Guardian
- How do you vacuum an asteroid traveling 63,000 mph? – NPR
Brian May, guitarist for Queen and an astrophysicist, talks about the asteroid threat:
May did the soundtrack for this short film for Asteroid Day:
Here two Planetary Radio Live reports on a conference in Italy:
The New Horizons probe will pass by Pluto 14 days from now. Closest approach will happen on July 14 at 11:49:57 UTC. Here is a video update released today:
Here is an interesting article about Alan Stern, the New Horizons science principle investigator: How Alan Stern’s tenacity, drive, and command got a NASA spacecraft to Pluto – Science/AAAS
Emily Lakdawalla provides lots of info, links and time line on the fly-by: What to expect when you’re expecting a flyby: Planning your July around New Horizons’ Pluto Pictures – The Planetary Society
Here is an infographic sent to me about Pluto: