7 Weeks of Terror: Pluto Mission

After nine and half years, a Kevlar coated umbrella shaped earth object heads to our last ball on our known path, called Pluto. New Horizons will flyby Pluto on July 15, after traveling more than 3 billion miles since its launched

Traveling faster than a bullet, 30K mph, on July 15th, New Horizon has a date with Pluto on July 15, 2015. It will glide by Pluto for a kiss and will be able to see the atmosphere and its surface. It was funny as the speakers looked back at their backdrop that showed New Horizon going near an image of Pluto. But this was only an artist’s concept. For the first time we will actually see the details of Pluto.

In the last 7 weeks JPL will have to alter New Horizon’s current path to meet-up with Pluto, uncharted territory leads to their 7 weeks of terror.

“In an unprecedented flyby this July, our knowledge of what the Pluto system is really like will expand exponentially, and I have no doubt there will be exciting discoveries,” said John Grunsfeld, an astronaut and associate administrator of the NASA Science Mission Directorate.

This is a huge step to validate Pluto’s existence as a micro-planet, who has had a strong identity crisis for years among scientist. New Horizon had 7 backups to its systems, which managed its voyage without incidents.

New Horizons epic voyage of 3 billion miles, started on January 19, 2006. There were protesters at Kennedy Centers Gates “No Nukes, no Nukes”. One protester actually got over the fence, but quickly returned when Security shouted “Watch out for alligators.” The protesters were there because it would be such a great distant to our sun, solar panels were out of the question. But, a little amount of Plutonium is ok (just a little bit.)

“This is pure exploration; we’re going to turn points of light into a planet and a system of moons before your eyes,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons’ principal investigator

Now the closest look of Pluto, has gone from pixelated to an identifiable blur of Pluto and its largest moon. We will have a color image for the first time of this cold dwarf planet. Given the distance between Pluto and Earth, data from the spacecraft during the encounter will take approximately 4.5 hours to reach our planet.

July 10, 2013

Aug 9, 2015 First color image of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon taken by the New Horizons

Pluto is 1,400 miles wide — roughly half the width of the continental United States.

What is out there, in this cold region of space? Once the spacecraft passes Pluto, it’ll make its way toward other objects in the Kuiper Belt. New Horizons’ trajectory is pre-programmed; just sit back and enjoy the view.

 Participants for the briefing:

  • John Grunsfeld, Science Mission Directorate associate administrator, NASA Headquarters, Washington
  • James Green, director of Planetary Science, NASA Headquarters
  • Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado
  • William McKinnon, New Horizons co-investigator, Washington University, St. Louis
  • Cathy Olkin, New Horizons deputy project scientist, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado
  • Glen Fountain, New Horizons project manager, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland
  • Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland