. 24/7 Space News .
Looking Back, Looking Forward To New Horizons
by Alan Stern | PI New Horizons
Boulder CO (SPX) Dec 21, 2021

The Escape From Sol.

New Horizons remains healthy and continues to send valuable data from deep in the Kuiper Belt - more than 5 billion miles away - even as it speeds farther and farther from the Earth and Sun.

As 2021 winds down, I want to recount what the New Horizons project has accomplished this year, and also look ahead to tell you about our plans for 2022.

During a busy and productive 2021, our science team published or submitted for publication no less than 49 research papers detailing discoveries about our flyby targets in the Pluto system and at the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) Arrokoth, other KBOs and dwarf planets, the outer heliosphere of the Sun, and even cosmology!

Meanwhile, our mission operations and engineering teams have planned and executed literally dozens of new scientific observations, tested and uploaded new main-computer software to enhance spacecraft data-collection capabilities, and tested and uploaded software that enables new capabilities for our Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) and Alice spectrometers.

We've also sent another year's worth of data and six separate "metaproduct" datasets to NASA's Planetary Data System for use by anyone in the world, researcher or private citizen, and we've continued outreach and communications activities that inform the public about discoveries and other New Horizons news.

In addition to all of that, we've continued ground based searches for new KBOs to study or fly by, and we've been hard at work on our proposal to NASA, due next month, to continue the New Horizons mission from 2023 through 2025.

As we plan for 2022, here are a few of the activities we will be concentrating on in the new year:

+ Completing the mission extension proposal due in January.

+ Uploading the last set of planned instrument software upgrades, this time for our Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation (PEPSSI) charged-particle spectrometer.

+ Testing and then executing our first spacecraft hibernation period since 2018, which will save both fuel and budget.

+ Testing a new power-saving capability that will allow the spacecraft to achieve maximum data transmission rates by using both data transmitters for at least five more years, even as spacecraft power levels decline due to the half-life of the plutonium in our nuclear battery.

+ Searching for KBOs to study or fly by using new machine learning tools and a deep-search camera filter that together will more than quadruple the number of objects we expect to detect.

+ Sending back most of the Arrokoth flyby data still on the spacecraft's digital recorders; some of that data remains on board due to higher-priority data transmission needs and some downtime activities at NASA's Deep Space Network, which we use to communicate with New Horizons.

+ Continuing to analyze data to produce and publish scientific discoveries from the mission.

Regarding our proposal to NASA to extend New Horizons funding and operations across 2023-2025, we have ambitious plans. If a new flyby target is found, we will concentrate on that flyby. But if no target is found, we will convert New Horizons into a highly-productive observatory conducting planetary science, astrophysics and heliospheric observations that no other spacecraft can - simply because New Horizons is the only spacecraft in the Kuiper Belt and the Sun's outer heliosphere, and far enough away to perform some unique kinds of astrophysics.

Those studies would range from unique new astronomical observations of Uranus, Neptune and dwarf planets, to searches for free floating black holes and the local interstellar medium, along with new observations of the faint optical and ultraviolet light of extragalactic space. All of this, of course, depends on NASA's peer review evaluation of our proposal.

And those are only a sampling of the things New Horizons will be doing. If our proposal is approved, I'll give a more thorough accounting of these and other 2023-2025 plans later next year.

For this update, I also want to mention to you that a number of Pluto system and Arrokoth surfaces features have received official names that our project team proposed. These include Pluto features honoring pioneering early 20th century aviatrix Bessie Coleman and pioneering late 20th century astronaut Sally Ride (https://www.nasa.gov/feature/pluto-landmarks-named-for-aviation-pioneers-sally-ride-and-bessie-coleman/). They also include the first surface feature named on Pluto's moon Nix, and an official name, "Sky," for Arrokoth's largest crater.

Finally, I'd like to give you a small sampling of the research that appeared in our 49 new scientific publications this year:

+ Results on the ages of Pluto's surface feature ages from careful crater count chronologies, by Kelsi Singer and colleagues.

+ The first comprehensive, close-up look at the far side geology of Pluto's largest moon, Charon, by Ross Beyer and colleagues.

+ A detailed compilation of everything known about the bright ring at the junction (or "neck") between Arrokoth's two lobes, by myself and a host of colleagues.

+ Results on the outer heliosphere's all-important "pick up ions" that dominate the thermal pressure of this faraway region of space, by Dave McComas and colleagues.

As you can see, the New Horizons team has been hard at work, producing both new data and new results as NASA's only spacecraft in both the Kuiper Belt and the outer heliosphere, and we're very proud of that!

And that's my end-of-2021 report to you. I'll write again once the new year is well underway.

In the meantime, I hope you'll keep on exploring - just as we do!

Related Links
New Horizons
The million outer planets of a star called Sol

Thanks for being there;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5+ Billed Monthly

paypal only
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal

Cracking the mystery of nitrogen ice dynamics on Pluto
Paris, France (SPX) Dec 17, 2021
Sputnik Planitia, a basin on the surface of Pluto1 filled with nitrogen ice, displays an astonishing pattern of flat polygons separated by narrow troughs. This feature is a sign of thermal convection within the icy mass that constantly renews its surface. Until now the driver of this process was a riddle. However, in their study published in Nature on 15 December 2021, researchers from the CNRS, ENS de Lyon,2 and the University of Exeter unveil the mystery behind the formation of these structures. ... read more

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

2021: A year of space tourism, flights on Mars, China's rise

Visual displays in space station culture

Japanese billionaire urges elites to visit space after ISS trip

Tech 2022 trends: Meatless meat, Web 3.0, Big Tech battles

Webb telescope launch again pushed back

Scientists at PPPL and Princeton University demonstrate a novel rocket for deep-space exploration

NASA sends shipment of supplies, experiments, holiday food to ISS

Precise Ariane 5 launch likely to extend Webb's expected lifetime

Perseverance Samples in Review: 2021

Perseverance and the Search Amongst the Sand

Holiday Prepping on Mar: Sols 3333-3343

Experiments show algae can survive in Mars-like environment

Shenzhou XIII taikonauts complete second extravehicular mission

New technologies make Chinese astronauts' in-orbit lives easier

On they march as China records 401st flight of Long March rocket family

China's Long March carrier rocket embarks on 400th mission

Satellogic to build high-throughput manufacturing plant in Netherlands

UK firm closer to offering global internet via satellites

NASA, private space industry may reach new heights in 2022

World's most sophisticated commercial communications satellite launched

China slams US after space station 'close encounters' with Musk's satellites

RUAG technology helped launch Webb into space

China's tallest rocket deploys two satellites

Fingers made of laser light: Controlled grabbing and rotation of biological micro-objects

Billions of starless planets haunt dark cloud cradles

Lost in space: Rocky planets formed from missing solar system material

ESO telescopes help uncover largest group of rogue planets yet

Astronomers Detect Signature of Magnetic Field on an Exoplanet

Looking Back, Looking Forward To New Horizons

Testing radar to peer into Jupiter's moons

NASA's Juno Spacecraft 'Hears' Jupiter's Moon

Deep Mantle Krypton Reveals Earth's Outer Solar System Ancestry

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.