May 30, 2017

Astronomy Video of the Week: Plutopalooza-The Wait is Over

Pluto snapping into focus!

Credit: NASA/JHU/APL/SW Research Institute

It has been over nine years.

On January 19th, 2006, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft launched out of Cape Canaveral bound for Pluto. And in just over a week’s time, the key flyby window opens centered on July 14th. Moving over 14 kilometres per second, New Horizons won’t be stopping as it heads on an escape trajectory out of the solar system. Already, we’re getting some amazing views courtesy of New Horizons LORRI imager. Clearly, Pluto and Charon are brave new worlds like no other.

Sending spacecraft to other planets is one of the most amazing things that we as a species do, and we never seem to do enough of it. NASA recently released a promotional video highlighting the mounting excitement swirling around next week’s flyby of Pluto:

The human story of ‘The Wait’ could be said to stretch even farther back to Clyde Tombaugh’s discovery of Pluto in 1930 from the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Clyde passed away in 1997, having never seen his discovery up close. An ounce of Clyde’s ashes ride with New Horizons, along with the  names of more than 430,000 supporters than made New Horizons happen.

And this comes as engineers rush to understand why the spacecraft went into safe mode briefly this past weekend. Full contact has been re-established, and safeguards will prevent the spacecraft from going into safe mode during the key encounter phase next week. New Horizons will be on its own on July 14th, as it won’t have time to spare for beaming data back to Earth while it is carrying out key science observations.

Get set for a wild ride!

 

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