NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is again “awake” and being ready for the farthest planetary encounter in historical past – a New Year’s Day 2019 flyby of the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule.
Cruising by means of the Kuiper Belt greater than three.7 billion miles (6 billion kilometers) from Earth, New Horizons had been in resource-saving hibernation mode since Dec. 21. Radio alerts confirming that New Horizons had executed on-board pc instructions to exit hibernation reached mission operations on the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, through NASA’s Deep Space Network at 2:12 a.m. EDT on June 5.
Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman of APL reported that the spacecraft was in good well being and working usually, with all methods coming again on-line as anticipated.
Over the subsequent three days, the mission group will gather navigation monitoring knowledge (utilizing alerts from the Deep Space Network) and ship the primary of many instructions to New Horizons’ onboard computer systems to start preparations for the Ultima flyby; lasting about two months, these flyby preparations embody reminiscence updates, Kuiper Belt science knowledge retrieval, and a collection of subsystem and science-instrument checkouts.
In August, the group will command New Horizons to start making distant observations of Ultima, pictures that can assist the group refine the spacecraft’s course to fly by the thing.
“Our team is already deep into planning and simulations of our upcoming flyby of Ultima Thule and excited that New Horizons is now back in an active state to ready the bird for flyby operations, which will begin in late August,” mentioned mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
New Horizons made a historic flight previous Pluto and its moons on July 14, 2015, returning knowledge that has reworked our view of those intriguing worlds close to the inside fringe of the Kuiper Belt. Since then, New Horizons has been dashing deeper into this distant area, observing different Kuiper Belt objects and measuring the properties of the heliosphere whereas heading towards the flyby of Ultima Thule – a few billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) past Pluto – on Jan. 1, 2019.
New Horizons is now roughly 162 million miles (262 million kilometers) – lower than twice the gap between Earth and the Sun – from Ultima, dashing 760,200 miles (1,223,420 kilometers nearer every day. Follow New Horizons on its voyage at http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Mission/Where-is-New-Horizons/index.php.
On June 5, 2018, New Horizons was almost three.eight billion miles (6.1 billion kilometers) from Earth. From there – greater than 40 instances the gap between the Earth and the Sun – a radio sign despatched from the spacecraft at mild pace reached Earth 5 hours and 40 minutes later.
The 165-day hibernation that ended June four was the second of two such “rest” durations for the spacecraft earlier than the Ultima Thule flyby. The spacecraft will now stay lively till late 2020, after it has transmitted all knowledge from the Ultima encounter again to Earth and accomplished different Kuiper Belt science observations.
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