[meteorite-list] Inside 100 Days to the Historic First Exploration of Pluto, New Horizons Set to Deliver

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2015 14:50:04 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201504082150.t38Lo4GK008256_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Inside 100 Days to the Historic First Exploration of Pluto, New
Horizons Set to Deliver

April 6, 2015

Speeding toward a historic flyby on July 14 - just over 98 days from now
- NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has moved into the second phase of its
approach to Pluto and its moons, beginning a series of observations and
activities that will bring these distant, icy worlds into sharper focus
than humankind has ever seen.

New Horizons began its long-distance encounter phase with Pluto in
January, taking dozens of images used primarily to navigate the
spacecraft toward Pluto and using its plasma and energetic-particle
sensors and dust detector to sample the environment and learn more about
the Sun's influence - or space weather - near where Pluto orbits 3
billion miles from the Sun. During this first approach phase New
Horizons also made an important course-correction homing maneuver on
March 10.

In the more intensive Approach Phase 2, which started April 5 and lasts
through mid-June, the mission adds numerous new and significant
observations of the Pluto system, including the first color and spectral
observations of Pluto and its moons, and series of long-exposure images
that will help the team spot additional moons or rings in the Pluto
system. The spacecraft will also make its first ultraviolet observation
to study the surface and atmosphere of Pluto and the surface of Pluto's
largest moon, Charon, and the spacecraft will conduct a major joint test
of flyby radio science observations in conjunction with NASA's Deep
Space Network (DSN) <http://deepspace.jpl.nasa.gov/dsnnow/>. These
various activities are critical to developing a fuller picture of that
system, and in assessing any hazards New Horizons could face as the
spacecraft passes between Pluto and Charon.

"The best images we have today still show Pluto and its moons as dots in
the distance, but by the time AP2 ends in June, we'll see Pluto like
never seen before," said Alan Stern, mission principal investigator from
Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. "This is the time when
Pluto transforms from a planetary astronomer's world - spied only
through telescopes with just the slightest detail - to a planetary
science target of the most capable flyby spacecraft ever sent on a first
reconnaissance mission."

April 14: New Horizons In-depth

The New Horizons team will discuss the objectives and provide a detailed
overview of the July Pluto encounter in a pair of hour-long, televised
and webcast briefings from NASA Headquarters on April 14 at 1 p.m. EDT.
Watch this site and www.nasa.gov/newhorizons for details.

That spacecraft - operated from the Johns Hopkins University Applied
Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland - is healthy, operating
normally and homing in on Pluto at more than 31,000 miles per hour. New
Horizons is approximately 2.98 billion miles (4.79 billion kilometers)
from Earth and just about 73 million miles (118 million kilometers) from
Pluto itself. The team is evaluating new tracking data to decide whether
they'll need to carry out a course correction on May 15; a decision is
expected about May 1.

"As the year started, we said New Horizons was on Pluto's doorstep,"
said mission Project Manager Glen Fountain, of APL. "Now we're opening
that door, getting closer and closer to our first real look at these
mysterious worlds on the edge of the planetary frontier. This is pure
exploration, and it's amazing to be a part of it."
Received on Wed 08 Apr 2015 05:50:04 PM PDT

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