Tomorrow is the close encounter between the New Horizons spacecraft and the ninth planet. I read that this mission was inspired by the 1991 space exploration stamp series.
Stamps were 29 cents back then. Nice to know this is outdated in more ways than one.
This is a flyby like the Voyager missions, not an orbiting mission. A computer glitch a few days ago has been resolved, and more pictures are being sent back to Earth.
This is the far side of Pluto, from 2.5 million miles away.
What we know so far:
New Horizons was launched in 2006 and is moving at an Earth-relative speed of 36,373 mph. It is 31.9 AU or approximately 3 billion miles away from home, and it takes the signal four and a half hours to reach Earth.
Pluto’s newly estimated size [1,473 miles (2,370 kilometers) in diameter] means that its density is slightly lower than previously thought, and the fraction of ice in its interior is slightly higher. Also, the lowest layer of Pluto’s atmosphere, called the troposphere, is shallower than previously believed…
Nix and Hydra were discovered using the Hubble Space Telescope in 2005. Even to Hubble, they appeared as points of light, and that’s how they looked to New Horizons until the final week of its approach to Pluto…Nix is estimated to be about 20 miles (about 35 kilometers) across, while Hydra is roughly 30 miles (roughly 45 kilometers) across. These sizes lead mission scientists to conclude that their surfaces are quite bright, possibly due to the presence of ice.
Other NASA craft are supporting this mission, including Cassini, Kepler, the SOFIA airborne observatory, and the Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes.
Because of the sheer amount of data and the number of spacecraft using the Deep Space Network, it will take a year for all of the data from the flyby to reach Earth.
New Horizons will continue on to the Kuiper Belt, heading in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius.
Join Roamy, Spill and me, your host, XBrad for a discussion of space exploration, the F-35 vs. the F-16, and Cyberwarfare.
Other than for some reason the recording dropping the last 10 minutes of Roamy’s segment, it mostly went well. No animals were harmed in the making of this podcast.
You can stream the podcast here.
This week is the International Space Station Research and Development Conference in Boston. Some interesting tidbits here and there – if you want to follow on Twitter, try #ISSRDC or follow @ISS_CASIS and @Space_Station.
Elon Musk talked about the recent SpaceX accident. Nothing I hadn’t heard before, except that he also mentioned a new ISS IMAX movie. (Oooooh!)
Made In Space received the Innovation Award for Technology Development for their 3D printer in space.
And last but not least, earlier this year the Water Recovery System on ISS passed the milestone of 50,000 lbs. of recycled water. Some of that was recovered from astronaut urine, some was recovered from condensate from the air, and some was from the Oxygen Recovery System, but that’s 25 tons that didn’t have to be brought up from Earth and that much closer to the technology for sustaining an exploration crew for long periods of time.
Today’s launch of a cargo mission to the International Space Station ended with the loss of the vehicle at about 2:19 into the launch.
From what I can see, it looks like a failure structurally somewhere forward on the vehicle, rather than the booster stages exploding.
Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and is commonly referred to as a dwarf planet. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft imaged it recently, and have shared their results in an animation.
NASA’s photo of the day – the Canary Islands are seen kicking up von Kármán vortices off the Atlantic coast of Africa: http://go.nasa.gov/1AUa3ww
Scottthebadger was kind enough to compliment my simile of Atlantis pinned like a butterfly on display. It’s even more obvious when you see the cargo bay doors open.