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

Kick-off NASA’s Solar System and Beyond campaign (Looking for Life) 04/05/2015

IMG_4131Met with NASA’s leading experts discussing the most recent discoveries of water and organics in our solar system, the role our sun plays in water-loss in neighboring planets, and our search for habitable worlds among the stars.

From John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, .Mars once had 50% of water. Mars was more earth like for a longer period then what we thought. In the Asteroid Belt we are finding frozen water. Most recent observations from Hubble of Europa showing water plumes. Europa will be part of NASA’s mission. Also on Ganymede, the most largest moon in our solar system shows evidence of water. Our perspectives have changed for habitable zones. Europa can have twice as much water under its crust than the Earth. “We are finding that our solar system is more soggy then we thought.” Also noted Goldilock planets can be moons orbiting planet giants. “We will find life in our solar system, before we find it in Xoplanets.”

Jeffrey Newmark, interim director of Heliophysics, Solar wind affects how water is distributed in the solar system.

Paul Hertz, director of Astrophysics. 20 years ago we found our first xoplanets. From help with the Kepler satellite, we now know every star has at least one or more planets orbiting them. We have discovered over 5,000 XoPlanets.

In 2017 NASA will launch TEST a new satellite for discovering new habitable planets. In 2018 NASA will launch the Jame Web Telescope that can discover more Earth 2.0 planets.

Ellen Stofan, NASA’s chief scientist, 6 billion years ago Earth develop its water. Water helps moving elements around and gives life more chance to become more complex. When we talk about life on MARS or Europa, we start at the microbial state, looking for the building blocks of life. Astro-Field Gemologist are required to be on Mars to discover these elements. In 2020 NASA is launching a new rover to Mars. Our current astronaut Kelly is spending a year on the space station. This will help us with the endurance required to have a astronaut spend a year on Mars.”We will find life in the next 10 to 20 years. We need more earth scientist,” Life’s building blocks live all over our solar system.

John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, we have experimented with electromagnetism and created a electromagnetic bubble around our Shuttle to protect it and see how it would do for potential deep space travel.

Group Question:
Are we going to answer the question sooner than we think?
• John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, “We are finding surprisingly many habitable environments. Where is everybody/”. This July 2015 we will visit the first time Pluto. “In our own solar system, we will find existence of life”
• Ellen Stofan, NASA’s chief scientist, “I am going out on a limb..we are going to have strong evidence of life in a decade, and proof within 20 years.”
• James Green, director of Planetary Science, “Where are they, perhaps a complex life like ours doesn’t last long.” we could of existed. “Maybe the  life that was on Mars was us” maybe we have lived on other planets.
• Jeffrey Newmark, interim director of Heliophysics, “It is a when, not a if when we will discover life,” we are getting a better understanding of what life is.
• Paul Hertz, director of Astrophysics, ” we are thinking in thousand ways of interrogating and understanding what is on other planets…there is a growth industry for understanding xoplanets.”

Participants included:

• John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate
• Ellen Stofan, NASA’s chief scientist
• James Green, director of Planetary Science
• Jeffrey Newmark, interim director of Heliophysics
• Paul Hertz, director of Astrophysics

This kick-off ended with playing the theme to STAR-TREK