NASA has spent the last 9 years and $3 billion to launch and fly the New Horizons space probe to Pluto. The probe launched from Earth on January 19, 2006 and was put into hibernation for about two-thirds of its journey, or 1,873 days. At 9:53 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory confirmed that it had received the signal that indicated the pre-programmed “on” switch had toggled. New Horizons is now awake and ready to great Pluto.
“This is a watershed event that signals the end of New Horizons crossing of a vast ocean of space to the very frontier of our solar system, and the beginning of the mission’s primary objective: the exploration of Pluto and its many moons in 2015,” said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern.
During its journey the New Horizons deep space probe went into 18 separate sleeps, ranging between 36 and 202 days. The probes sleep cycle allowed the NASA team to monitor the probe while it was awake, and preserve it from wear and tear on its components, and reduce the risk of system failure from a constant sleep.
“Technically, this was routine, since the wake-up was a procedure that we’d done many times before,” New Horizons project manager Glen Fountain told CNET. “Symbolically, however, this is a big deal. It means the start of our pre-encounter operations.”
New Horizons will begin surveying Pluton on January 15. Over the next few weeks a team on Earth will ensure that the probe is fully operational. They will test various commands and sequences on the probe, including various sensors that can detect infrared and ultraviolet signals.
The New Horizons probe will reach its closest point to Pluto on July 14, 2015, at which time NASA experts will receive detailed views of the Pluton system, including views from Pluto’s moons, Charon, Hydra, Nix, Kerberos and Styx. New Horizons will then spend the next decade traversing the Kuiper belt.
If it remains operational the New Horizons problem will be 100 AU from the sun by 2038 and could send back images and other data from the heliosphere.
With the potential to explore a new class of planets, NASA scientists and other researchers from around the world are excited to see what is in store for the New Horizons probe as it continues on its monumental mission.
Want to learn more about New Horizons? Follow it on Twitter:
We have data! She's awake!
— NewHorizons2015 (@NewHorizons2015) December 7, 2014
This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: NASA’s New Horizons Wakes Up To Meet With Pluto
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